A WELSH winter tradition will return to Newport for the New Year.

Mari Lwyd will make her annual appearance in the city on Saturday, January 13.

The custom, which involves a person under a white cloth controlling a horse skull on the end of a pole, dates back to the early 1800s.

The Newport Mari Lwyd is known as “Cassie” – short for Casnewydd (Newport in Welsh).

The mischievous character will start at 2pm by the W H Davies statue on Commercial Street and finish outside Ye Olde Murenger House on High Street.

South Wales Argus: The Mari Lwyd is returning to Newport on January 13The Mari Lwyd is returning to Newport on January 13 (Image: Richard Atkin)

On this occasion, Cassie will be accompanied by the Widders Morris Dance Troupe, bringing a music and dance tradition from the border region.

Traditionally, farm workers, labourers and village folk would dance to earn extra cash – something that was perceived as akin to the illegal and taboo act of begging.

In order to save their embarrassment and elude arrest, the dancers wore ragged clothes and painted their faces black as a means of masking their identity.

Parade organiser Richard Atkin says the troupe should bring added “spectacle” to the event.

What does the Mari Lwyd tradition come from?

Especially popular in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire, the Mari Lwyd custom used to begin at dusk and often go late into the night.

A party of villagers – usually all men – would take the horse to every house, pub and inn and sing traditional songs at the door, say Museums Wales.

With the door still closed, the Mari party and inhabitants would contest a kind of 19th-century rap battle called a “pwnco” until one side gave up.

If the Mari party won, they were allowed to enter the building and, it was said, bring good luck with them – so they were usually allowed to win.

Once inside, the Mari would snap its jaws and wreak general havoc before moving onto the next house.

The participants were often rewarded with food and drink.