ONE of South Wales' most curious folk customs will come to Newport this weekend.

The Mari Lwyd – a hooded, real-life horse skull mounted on a pole – will be paraded through the city centre on Saturday afternoon.

The event marks a rare 'urban' appearance for the Mari Lwyd tradition, which is more commonly found among small town or village communities.

The Newport Mari Lwyd, nicknamed 'Cassie' (short for Casnewydd) will be dressed in the city's colours of black and amber.

South Wales Argus: Cassie, the Newport Mari Lwyd. Picture: Richard AtkinCassie, the Newport Mari Lwyd. Picture: Richard Atkin

The procession starts at 1pm in front of the W.H. Davies 'Sand and Stare' statue in Commercial Street, near the junction with Hill Street.

The Mari Lwyd will then make its way through the city centre to the Ye Olde Murenger House pub in High Street, where it will welcome in the new year.

Leading Cassie will be local performers Richard Atkin and Smartie Vader, along with historian Monty Dart – who along with her late husband Tom had been planning for many years to bring the Mari Lwyd custom to Newport.

The tradition was first recorded in Wales at the end of the 18th century, and though it later declined in popularity it was revived by some communities in the 20th century, and is continued today in a small number of places in South Wales.

Pubs in Llantrisant and Maesteg are among the places to still welcome the Mari Lwyd each new year, and in Gwent the custom features prominently in Chepstow's annual Wassail folk festival, held each January.

Caerleon, too, continues the Mari Lwyd tradition – this year's procession in the village will also be held on Saturday, at 6.30pm – though it is not linked to the Newport event.