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World's Strangest Holiday Traditions

Mari Lwyd, Wales

Horses and Christmas go perfectly well together in Wales. Mari Lwyd translates as “Gray Mare” and involves carting a horse—either a life-size figure or someone dressed as a horse—door-to-door, accompanied by a group of colorful singers and dancers. The tradition is thought to be a holdover from pagan celebrations before Christmas was introduced to Wales. The ritual kicks off with traditional Welsh-language songs and a petition to enter the home for more music and merriment. It can also include a rhyme contest between the troupe and residents—a satirical back-and-forth not unlike a modern rap contest.

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