St. David’s Day
St David’s Day is celebrated annually on 1 March to commemorate St. David the patron saint of Wales. The first day of March was chosen in remembrance of the death of Saint David. Tradition holds that he died on that day in 589. The date was declared a national day of celebration within Wales in the 18th century. St. David (Welsh: Dewi Sant) was born towards the end of the fifth century. He was a scion of the royal house of Ceredigion, and founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosyn (The Vale of Roses) on the western headland of Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro), at the spot where St David’s Cathedral stands today. David’s fame as a teacher and ascetic spread throughout the Celtic world. His foundation at Glyn Rhosin became an important Christian shrine, and the most important centre in Wales. The date of Dewi Sant’s death is recorded as 1 March, but the year is uncertain – possibly 588. As his tearful monks prepared for his death St David uttered these words: ‘Brothers be ye constant. The yoke which with single mind ye have taken, bear ye to the end; and whatsoever ye have seen with me and heard, keep and fulfil’.
For centuries, 1st March has been a national festival. St David was recognised as a national patron saint at the height of Welsh resistance to the Normans. St David’s day was celebrated by Welsh throughout their migration, colonization, and settlement of the British Empire including the British colonization of America and British colonization of Africa, and the Colonization of Australia. Thus, from London, England, to Dublin, Ireland, to New York City, New York, to Sydney, Australia, to Durban, South Africa, ever since the establishment of the British Empire around the globe and the Welsh diaspora, Saint David’s Day has been celebrated. Indeed, the 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys noted how Welsh celebrations in London for St David’s day would spark parades in costumes and dragon, with pipes, drinks and confectioners producing ‘Taffies’ – gingerbread figures. St David’s Day is celebrated by Welsh societies throughout the world with dinners, parties, eisteddfodau (recitals Singing and concerts).
Additionally, various Welsh Regiments of the British Army utilize aspects of Saint David’s cross, Saint David himself, or songs of Saint David in their formalities during the celebrations. Many Welsh people wear one or both of the national emblems of Wales on their lapel to celebrate St. David: the daffodil (a generic Welsh symbol which is in season during March) or the leek (Saint David’s personal symbol) on this day. The leek arises from an occasion when a troop of Welsh were able to distinguish each other from a troop of English enemy dressed in similar fashion by wearing leeks. The association between leeks and daffodils is strengthened by the fact that they have similar names in Welsh, Cenhinen (leek) and Cenhinen Pedr (daffodil, literally “Peter’s leek”). Younger girls sometimes wear traditional Welsh costumes to school. This costume consists of a long woollen skirt, white blouse, woollen shawl and a Welsh hat. The flag of Saint David plays a central role in the celebrations and can be seen flying throughout Wales, Cawl is also frequently prepared and consumed on St. David’s Day.