HEADS rolled in Penarth earlier this week (well, at least one did).

Hen Galan, the Old Welsh New Year, was celebrated in Penarth on Thursday, January 13, with the annual rolling of a mythical giant’s head and a Mari Lwyd.

This annual celebratory event has attracted hundreds in previous years – although last year’s Hen Galen was a virtual event due to Covid restrictions, with two people rolling the head of the mythical Welsh giant Bendigeidfran (Bran the Blessed) as part of their daily exercise.

This year, in line with the current Covid restrictions, a small number of families met on Penarth’s clifftops and rolled the giant's head down to the beach before heading to the recently re-opened Penarth Pier Pavilion for a Hen Galan celebration.

Penarth Times:

They stopped at restaurants and cafes along the beachfront, joined by a Mari Lwyd – a horse skull dressed on a pole as part of a traditional Welsh celebration in which revellers knock doors and, through song, ask for hospitality.

Penarth Times:

Traditionally those inside sing back, teasingly, and banter and jokes are traded through the door until the Mari Lwyd and the party are let in.

Richard Parry who took part said: "It's wonderful that hospitality, welcome and generosity are negotiated in song and teasing.

“People love being involved in this tradition, and although it was sometimes being recorded as riotous in the 19th century, at its heart are strangers asking for welcome, singing, laughing and then being received in song.”

The stand-off at the door of the Penarth Pier Pavilion - which re-opened formally in December last year under the new management of Vale of Glamorgan Council - lasted 12 verses of the Mari Lwyd song, before the doors opened and the Mari Lwyd party and giant's head entered.

Penarth Times:

Welsh artist Ifor Davies read the legend of Bendigeidfran aloud to the celebration, describing how the friendly and wonderous giant continued to laugh and talk even after his head had been cut off, and how it was finally taken from Grassholm off the Pembrokeshire coast and taken to London to be buried.