Advent activity #12

Naturally once you’ve bought your tree, the next job is to DECORATE TREE. Ours has been up for nearly a week but I’ve saved the pictures for today, in case you need some inspiration. The decorations are the usual accumulation of several years’ worth of buying, borrowing and stealing, but the fairy on the top is the work of my own fair hands exactly forty-two years ago. I think you’ll agree I showed a promising talent even then:

Since writing about “Deck the Halls” yesterday I have had it as an earworm, and since today is all about putting up decorations it seems an appropriate choice. As I know you know, the tune is from the Welsh “Nos Galan” which is a new year’s song, so in honour of its origins here is a gorgeous version by the Treorchy Male Voice Choir.

Advent song for December 9: Nos Galan, Wales

Nos Galan, also known as Oer yw’r gwr, is a Welsh folk song dating back to at least the eighteenth century (that’s when it was first written down, but it was already old then). I’m not going to tell you much more about it if you don’t already know what it’s called in English, because I want you to listen to this gorgeous version without preconceptions (you may have to skip an ad first, but I promise it’s worth it).

If you want to cheat, the Welsh lyrics and the English are both listed here. The English version isn’t a translation of the Welsh, though, because even though I only know a dozen Welsh words, one of them is “Cymru”, which appears in the third line of the Welsh version and nowhere at all in the version I grew up with. Google translate suggests that the first verse in Welsh is actually something like:

Cold is the man who can not love
Old beloved mountains of Wales
To him their warmest love
[Gwyia] joyful next year

(It couldn’t handle “Gwiya”. Do let me know if you know what it means.)

UPDATE: We have a better translation via Pegasus and specifically Rhian, their Welsh alto:

Rhian’s mum says it is used in specific idiomatic expression meaning ‘Hope there is much celebration for you next year”

So we can assume that the final line is to be translated as above. Phew. Thank you, Rhian’s mum.

Anyway, I like those words much better than the English ones, and this version of it has turned a carol I always thought of as quite dull into something magically beautiful. That’s Welsh singing for you, I suppose*.

*Technically, these singers are Dutch, but Dutch and Welsh are kind of similar, aren’t they? And it’s clearly a Welsh version of a Welsh song, and it’s by far the nicest version I could find, so I cheated a bit. Sorry.