Carols at cockcrow: Archbishop sings praises of new bilingual carol sheet

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, has welcomed a free carol sheet for Welsh and English-speaking congregations that reflects the distinctive Welsh carol tradition of Plygain.

Our Bethlehem Carol Sheet, currently in its 56th edition, is already hugely popular throughout England – but now Wales has its own bilingual edition.

The practical and attractive A4 production includes 10 carols in each language, side by side, five Welsh carols, five English carols and five in both languages.

Archbishop Barry believes the new venture comes at an exciting time for Plygain, the strong tradition of carol singing in Wales, which is regaining popularity. The word comes from the Latin for 'at cockcrow' on Christmas day. Plygain services today are held any time from the beginning of December to the end of January.

In her journal of 1774 Mrs Thrale, friend of Dr Samuel Johnson, describes the inhabitants of Dyffryn Clwyd kindling their lights at two in the morning and singing and dancing to the harp until the Plygain. A Plygain is not a concert, but a service of praise in which members of the congregation take turns to sing carols - some very old indeed. They are never accompanied by instruments, and never applauded, for it is all about worship.

Archbishop Barry's favourite Welsh carol on the sheet is O Deued Pob Cristion.

'It is a traditional Welsh carol that is not sentimental or cloying but goes to the heart of the meaning of Christmas that in Jesus Christ we see God’s human face – a face of compassion and love for the human race. It then challenges us to live out that kind of love in our own lives. It was sung at Plygain services. Rather than concentrating on the Christmas story itself, it is a kind of sermon in song.'

The Bethlehem Carol Sheet is ideal for services and a variety of other events – better than issuing hymn books and cheaper than printing special order of service sheets. It is also a reminder that behind the story of Bethlehem are children without education, families without healthcare, communities fragmented, who need urgent help and support.

You can order the free bilingual (Welsh) carol sheets in our shop.