Christmas Eve – Noswyl Nadolig
Toffee Evening – Noson Gyflaith
1940s – group of young people making taffy (Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images)
In a tradition that’s believed to date from the late 18th century, as Christmas Eve rolled into the night, many Welsh families would gather to make toffee. Ingredients were boiled in pans on the fire, and then pulled repeatedly into long strands whilst still warm.
Once the toffee had reached a golden yellow colour, the strands were cut into small pieces and dropped into iced water to cool. Upon this, the sweet treats curled into shapes – any that resembled letters were thought to foresee the future loves of unbetrothed family members.
Along with making toffee, Christmas Eve was also celebrated with storytelling, playing games, and decorating the house with holly and [mistletoe]
Though this custom was mainly found in North Wales, toffee-making was also practised in the south of the country, particularly in coal-mining communities. However, in these regions it was not associated with Christmas; housewives would sell it either from their homes or on market stalls.
Additionally, the word ‘toffee’ would not have been used until the 19th century, and the sweet treat would have instead been named ‘cyflaith’, ‘ffanni’ and, more commonly, ‘taffy’.