Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus / Happy St. David’s Day!
Written by jamie | Published on 01st March 2023
St David’s Day is a day of parades, concerts and eisteddfodau (festivals of music, language and culture). Flags are flown. The national anthem is sung with extra fervour. Children go to school in traditional Welsh dress, and people proudly pin a daffodil or leek to their lapel.
St David’s Day has been celebrated since the year 1120 and is a huge celebration for the Welsh. Who is St David? St David was the greatest figure in the 6th century Welsh Age of Saints, founder of scores of religious communities, and the only native-born patron saint of the countries of Britain and Ireland.
Most of what we know about St David was written by the 11th-century scholar Rhygyfarch. He tells us that St David was born in Pembrokeshire around the year 500, the grandson of Ceredig ap Cunedda, king of Ceredigion. He became a renowned preacher, founding monastic settlements and churches in Wales, Brittany, and England – including, possibly, the abbey at Glastonbury. In 550 A.D., fellow monks elected him primate of the region of Brefi, after he gave a compelling speech at the Synod of Brefi. In 569 A.D., David presided over the Synod of Caerleon.
He’s said to have made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem where he became an archbishop and established a strict religious community in what is now St Davids in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. He was famed for his pious austerity, as he is believed to have lived on only leeks and water. His monks only prayed, ate, and wrote in the evenings, and plowed fields themselves without the help of animals. He eschewed personal possessions — the monks could not even say ‘my’ when referring to something as simple as a book.
Many people claimed that St David was able to perform miracles. One of the more famous miracles associated with him is that once while preaching at Llandewi Brefi, he caused the ground to rise beneath his feet so that everyone could hear his sermon. During the incident, a white dove is said to have landed on his shoulder, as he is so often depicted now. Other miracles are believed to be St David resurrecting a dead child and restoring sight to a blind man.
St David died on 1 March – St David’s Day – in 589. He was buried at St. David’s Cathedral. After the Vikings raided his tomb in the 10th and 11th centuries, it was given a new shrine in 1275. The bones of the person who was supposedly St. David were discovered in the Holy Trinity Chapel of Saint David’s Cathedral and carbon-dated back to the 12th century. He was canonized by Pope Callixtus in the 12th century, and St David’s Day has been celebrated ever since. His shrine at St. David’s became a notable place of pilgrimage, especially during the Middle Ages.
There have been over 50 churches dedicated to him in pre-Reformation days. He was also canonized by the Eastern Orthodox church. St. David’s day has long been a celebration of the saint of Wales. Traditional festivities include wearing daffodils and leeks, recognized symbols of Wales and Saint David respectively, eating traditional Welsh food including cawl and Welsh rarebit, and women wearing traditional Welsh dress. An increasing number of cities and towns across Wales including Cardiff, Swansea, and Aberystwyth also put on parades throughout the day.
HOW TO CELEBRATE ST DAVID’S DAY
Several Wales’s heritage sites are open for free on St David’s Day, as part of St David’s Day celebrations – including St Davids Bishop’s Palace. This includes Caerphilly Castle, with its iconic leaning tower and St Davids Bishop’s Palace — located near St Davids Cathedral, where Wales’s patron Saint, Dewi Sant, founded his monastery. There is also a national parade each year. From military parades to concerts and food festivals, there is no shortage of celebration of St. David’s Day in Wales — particularly in Cardiff. If that’s out of range, try to find a celebration near you! Even Washington D.C. and Los Angeles hold events for the Welsh holiday to honor Welsh culture.
Wear a costume
People typically celebrate St David’s Day by wearing a daffodil, the national symbol of Wales, or a leek, St David’s symbol. In Wales, people, particularly children, wear traditional Welsh costumes. Girls wear a petticoat and overcoat, made of Welsh flannel, and a tall hat, worn over a frilled bonnet.
Eat Welsh food
Go on a search for Welsh cakes and Bara Brith. If you can’t find a Welsh restaurant, it doesn’t matter. Cook up some ‘cawl,’ Welsh rarebit, ‘laverbread,’ or ‘Glamorgan sausage’ to celebrate traditional Welsh cuisine!