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Culture of Wales
Flag of Wales 2.svg
Festivals
Calennig · Dydd Santes Dwynwen · Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau · Saint David's Day · Calan Mai · Calan Awst · Calan Gaeaf · Gŵyl Mabsant · Eisteddfod
Dress
Traditional Welsh costume
Cuisine
Bara brith · Bara Lafwr · Cawl · Cawl Cennin · Crempog · Gower cuisine · Selsig Morgannwg · Tatws Pum Munud · Welsh breakfast · Welsh cake · Welsh rarebit
Land division
Cymwd · Cantref · Historic counties
Language
Welsh (Cymraeg) · Welsh English · History of the Welsh language · Welsh placenames · Welsh surnames · Welsh medium education · Y Fro Gymraeg
Law
Welsh law · Contemporary Welsh law
Literature
Welsh-language literature · English-language literature · Medieval Welsh literature · Welsh-language authors · Welsh-language poets
Music
Cerdd Dant · Crwth · Cymanfa Ganu · Cynghanedd · Noson Lawen · Pibgorn · Tabwrdd · Telyn Deires · Twmpath · Welsh bagpipes
Mythology
Welsh mythology · Matter of Britain · Arthurian legend
Sport
Boxing  · Cnapan · Cricket  · Football  · Rugby league  · Rugby union
Symbols
Flag of Wales · Flag of Saint David · List of Welsh flags · Welsh Dragon · Welsh heraldry · Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau

Wales Portal
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The culture of Wales is distinctive, with its own language, customs, holidays and music.

Wales is primarily represented by the symbol of the red Welsh Dragon, but other national emblems include the leek and daffodil. The Welsh words for leeks (cennin) and daffodils (cennin Pedr, lit. "(Saint) Peter's Leeks") are closely related and it is likely that one of the symbols came to be used due to a misunderstanding for the other one, though it is less clear which came first.

Contents

National Holidays

The patron saint of Wales is Saint David, Dewi Sant in Welsh. St. David's Day is celebrated on 1 March, which some people argue should be designated a public holiday in Wales. Other days which have been proposed for national public commemorations are 16 September (the day on which Owain Glyndŵr's rebellion began) and 11 December (the death of Llywelyn the Last).

The traditional seasonal festivals in Wales are:

Music

Wales is often known by the phrase "the Land of Song" (Welsh: Gwlad y Gân) and its people have a renowned affinity for singing, poetry and music.

Perhaps the most well-known musical image of Wales is that of the choir, in particular the male voice choir (Welsh: côr meibion) such as Treorchy Male Choir, Cor Meibion Pontypridd, Morriston Orpheus Choir etc. While this is certainly a part (though of greatly diminished importance) of the current musical life of the nation, it is by no means the only or the oldest part, and the choral tradition does not really stretch back significantly beyond its heyday in the 19th century.

Much older is the tradition of instrumental folk music. The harp has been closely associated with Wales for a very long time, and one kind of harp, the triple harp is uniquely Welsh. Other specifically Welsh instruments included the crwth and the pibgorn, though both fell out of general use by the end of the 18th century. Due to Nonconformist disapproval, the instrumental folk tradition fell into decline through the 19th and early 20th centuries, but has since seen a revival and is now arguably as strong as ever. The principal instruments are the harp and the fiddle, but many other instruments are used, and both the crwth and pibgorn are again being played by a small but growing number of people.

Wales also has a long tradition of folk song which, like the instrumental tradition, and for the same reasons, was long in decline but is now flourishing again. One notable kind of Welsh song is cerdd dant which, loosely, is an improvised performance following quite strict rules in which poetry is sung to one tune against the accompaniment of (usually) a harp to a different tune.

In the mid- to late 1990s new Welsh music became profound, with the chart successes of bands including Super Furry Animals, Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Stereophonics and The Oppressed. These groups helped the media at the time invent the epithet "Cool Cymru", an answer to Britpop's "Cool Britannia". Prior to that, Welsh acts including The Alarm, Shakin' Stevens and Bonnie Tyler had all had high profiles, but there had never been much of a movement.

Around this time, artists such as Tom Jones, former Velvet Underground bassist/violist/keyboardist John Cale, and Shirley Bassey had something of a renaissance.

The Welsh music industry is currently in good health, with boundless creativity from many lesser known groups, and labels such as Ankstmusik, Crai, and Boobytrap Records. And, in recent years, a large alternative and punk scene has sprung up from the Valleys towns in south Wales, of which Lostprophets, mclusky, The Automatic and Funeral for a Friend have achieved notable international success. Picture Frame Seduction from Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire, West Wales created their own disturbing punk sound in 1978, and in 2003 they signed to Grand Theft Audio Records in Los Angeles, USA. They were once dubbed the "Welsh Sex Pistols" due to their attitude towards the music establishment in the UK.

Of late, the Welsh-language music scene has seen something of a revival owing to the influence of Welsh-speaking Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens[citation needed], with bands like Plant Duw, Genod Droog, Frizbee, Cate Le Bont, Mattoidz and Radio Luxembourg. Huw Stephens also coordinated a Camden-crawl-style music festival named Swn (Welsh for "noise") in Cardiff. Every year there is a Welsh language festival in Dolgellau called Sesiwn Fawr Dolgellau. Also, recently, Duffy, who comes from Gwynedd, attained a number one single and a number one album, Rockferry.

Other recent notable bands in the Cardiff area include Los Campesinos!, Kids in Glass Houses, The Automatic, Picture Books in Winter, The School, Me and the Major, New Art Riot and Future of the Left.

Visual arts

Many works of Celtic art have been found in Wales.[1] In the Early Medieval period, the Celtic Christianity of Wales participated in the Insular art of the British Isles and a number of illuminated manuscripts possibly of Welsh origin survive, of which the 8th century Hereford Gospels and Lichfield Gospels are the most notable. The 11th century Ricemarch Psalter (now in Dublin) is certainly Welsh, made in St David's, and shows a late Insular style with unusual Viking influence.

The best of the few Welsh artists of the 16-18th centuries tended to move elsewhere to work, but in the 18th century the dominance of landscape art in English art bought them motives to stay at home, and bought an influx of artists from outside to paint Welsh scenery. The Welsh painter Richard Wilson (1714–1782) is arguably the first major British landscapist, but rather more notable for Italian scenes than Welsh ones, although he did paint several on visits from London.[2]

The Bard, 1774, by Thomas Jones (1742–1803)

It remained difficult for artists relying on the Welsh market to support themselves until well into the 20th century. An Act of Parliament in 1857 provided for the establishment of a number of art schools throughout the United Kingdom, and the Cardiff School of Art opened in 1865. Graduates still very often had to leave Wales to work, but Betws-y-Coed became a popular centre for artists, and its artist's colony helped form the Royal Cambrian Academy in 1881.[3] The sculptor Sir William Goscombe John made many works for Welsh commissions, although he had settled in London. Christopher Williams, whose subjects were mostly resolutely Welsh, was also based in London. Thomas E. Stephens and Andrew Vicari had very successful careers as portraitists based respectively in the United States and France. Sir Frank Brangwyn was Welsh by origin, but spent little time in Wales.

Perhaps the most famous Welsh painters, Augustus John and his sister Gwen John, mostly lived in London and Paris; however the landscapists Sir Kyffin Williams and Peter Prendergast remained living in Wales for most of their lives, though well in touch with the wider art world. Ceri Richards was very engaged in the Welsh art scene as a teacher in Cardiff, and even after moving to London; he was a figurative painter in international styles including Surrealism. Various artists have moved to Wales, including Eric Gill, the London-born Welshman David Jones, and the sculptor Jonah Jones. The Kardomah Gang was a intellectual circle centred on the poet Dylan Thomas and poet and artist Vernon Watkins in Swansea, which also included the painter Alfred Janes. Today much art is produced in Wales, as elsewhere in a great diversity of styles.

South Wales had several notable potteries in the late 18th and 19th centuries, beginning with the Cambrian Pottery (1764–1870, also known as "Swansea pottery") and including Nantgarw Pottery near Cardiff, which was in operation from 1813 to 1822 making fine porcelain, and then utilitarian pottery until 1920. Portmeirion Pottery (from 1961) has never in fact been made in Wales.

Cuisine

Woman wearing a Welsh hat

Wales is traditionally seen as an agrarian country and the traditional cuisines of Wales represent this heritage. Indeed, traditional foods tend to be simple, utilising readily-available ingredients and those cuts of meat that were not readily saleable. Baking is also a large part of the country's culinary culture and these dishes (such as Bara Brith [mottled bread]) tend to be fruitcakes that will keep for many days and were often served as a workman's tea. Traditional recipes such as lob scows (a lamb-based stew), Welsh rarebit, laver bread, brithyll abermeurig (Abermeurig trout) and Penclawdd cockles tend to be regional, reflecting the foods available in that region.

Of late, however, there has been a growing trend for many chefs to re-interpret these dishes in a more modern, fusion context.[4]. Though leeks and onions are commonly used during the year they tend to feature even more prominently in the recipes for St David's day and that other staple of the Welsh diet, locally produced lamb is also used. These days, however, more trout (especially sea trout, sewin) is also used.[5]

Religion

The Welsh Dragon depicted on the Welsh flag.

The largest religion in Wales is Christianity, with 72% of the population declaring to be Christian in the 2001 census. The Presbyterian Church of Wales was for many years the largest denomination and was born out of the Welsh Methodist revival in the eighteenth century and seceded from the Church of England in 1811; it had 34,819 members in 2004. The Church in Wales is now the largest with an average Sunday attendance of 41,500 in 2004. It forms part of the Anglican Communion, and was also part of the Church of England, but was disestablished by the British Government under the Welsh Church Act 1914. The Roman Catholic Church makes up the next largest denomination at 3% of the population. Non Christian religions are small in Wales, making up less than 2% of the population. 18% of people declare no religion.

Sport

The national sport of Wales is rugby union, with the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff hosting many annual and one-off national and international events. However, in mid and north Wales, the lack of high-profile rugby teams has meant that football is more commonly played. Wales has also produced its fair share of sports people in most sporting activities from boxing to equestrianism. Although rugby union is big in Wales, (South and West Wales more specifically) there is huge success in the footballing teams, most recently Cardiff City FC reaching the FA Cup Finals in 2008, being the only Welsh team to win the FA Cup in April 1927. Swansea City were promoted from Coca-Cola League One to Championship after the 2007-2008 season.

See also

References

External links

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