March 1 is St. David’s Day – it’s a big party to celebrate Wales

Leeks, daffodils, parades, pilgrimages and festivals - what's not to love?

St. David is the patron saint of Wales

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus! Happy St. David’s Day!

March 1 marks St. David’s Day celebrated in honour of St David, the patron saint of Wales. As such, it is also the “national day” of Wales.

(And if you don’t speak Welsh, here’s a tip: Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus is pronounced ‘deethe goil Dewi hapeece’.)

Choose your parade

Lots of parties, parades, church services, concerts and festivals mark the day in Wales. The largest parade is held in Cardiff (this year on 3 March) with musicians, clubs, and other marching units. Aberystwyth (parade on 4 March), Wrexham (music festival 3-5 March) and Colwyn Bay are some of the other places that host lively celebrations.

Or you can celebrate in St. David – the UK’s smallest town (by size and population), and the birthplace of St. David himself. Dominated by the ancient St. David’s Cathedral, which houses the shrine of St. David, the city has hosted Pilgrim’s walks for over a thousand years. This beautiful little place in southwest Wales is also a national park.

St. David's Cathedral

St. David’s Cathedral

The only patron saint in the British Isles, who was born in the place he represents

St. David (Dewi Sant) was made a Saint in 1120; incidentally the only patron saint of the British Isles who was born in the place he represents. The Church established March 1 as a Holy Feast Day in 1398, commemorating the day of St. David’s death in 589 A.D.

History says he was the grandson of the Prince of Ceredigion, and that his mother was the niece of King Arthur. He was known as a gentle man who preferred a simple life, and lived to be over 100!

Choose your symbol… daffodils or leeks?

During his life, he preached throughout the British Isles and beyond, founding 12 monasteries, some as far away as Jerusalem.

The best advice…

St. David’s best known miracle occurred while he was preaching at the Synod of LLanddewi Brefi. Apparently, people at the back of the crowd were having a hard time hearing, so St. David raised the ground he was standing on to form a hill so that he could be seen and heard by all. While he preached a white dove landed on his shoulder signifying God’s grace and blessing.

Choose your symbol… daffodils or leeks?

He told his followers, “Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things you have heard and seen me do.”  Good advice in any century.

Traditional ways to celebrate

Although school is in session on St. David’s Day, the day is often devoted to music, poetry and art. “Eisteddfod” is a celebration of creativity said to date back to 1176 A.D. when Lord Rhys (ruler of the Kingdom of Deheubarth in the 12th c.) challenged musicians and poets to compete for a seat at his table.

A traditional meal on St. David’s day is cawl, a rich lamb stew, whose recipe is posted here.

Make some cawl for St. David’s Day

And if you can’t get to one of the festivals or parades, most Welsh castles and heritage sites open their doors for free on St. David’s Day.

But why the leek? And why daffodils?

St. David’s Day revelers often dress in traditional Welsh costume and wear a leek or a daffodil. Legend has it that on the eve of battle with the invading Saxons, St. David advised the native Welsh to wear leeks on their hats to identify “friend from foe.” The battle was successful and the leek became a national symbol.

But why the daffodil? Well, in Welsh, leek is “cenhinen”, and daffodil is “cenhinen pedr” (“Peter’s leek”). Through a mixture of linguistic confusion – the daffodil also became a national symbol. (More photogenic than leeks also.)

Wherever you are in Wales, you can be sure that there’s something going on to celebrate the day! So, come to Wales with Dragon in Your Pocket! And remember to “be joyful, keep the faith and do the little things…”

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

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