Saint David’s Day is the national day of Wales and is celebrated on the first Day of March. It commemorates the patron saint of Wales, David or Dewi Sant, as he is called in Welsh.
Introducing Saint David, Patron Saint of Wales
We don’t know very much about St David, only that he was the son of King Ceredig and a woman called ‘Non’. This may not have been her real name but instead might refer to the fact she was a nun. Some sources cite her as being the the daughter of Lord Cynyr of Caer Goch but it is not certain. Legend has it that Non gave birth alone on a cliff in a treacherous storm, which supports the theory that she could well have been a nun. A chapel, St Nons, stands where the birth took place.
St David became a teacher after being educated in Carmarthenshire. He travelled around Wales, south-west England and made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he was appointed Archbishop.
Why Did Dewi Sant Become Welsh Patron Saint?
Several miracles are attributed to Dewi Sant, such as before preaching to a crowd at Synod of Llanddewibrefi he caused the ground beneath his feet to lift so that all could see and hear him.
He is often portrayed standing upon a hillock with a white dove upon his shoulder. He was also reported to have cured his tutor, St Paulinus, of blindness. However, these stories are related in the 11th century by Rhigyfarch, who is thought to have promoted St David as an act of propaganda in order to resist the assimilation of Wales into Norman culture, which was overtaking England at that time.
St David established a strict religious order at Menevia in Pembrokeshire, where now stands the magnificent St David’s Cathedral. His monks were not allowed to use animals to help plough the land and they were not permitted any food apart from salted bread and water.
The story goes that Dewi Sant lived for over a hundred years and died in the year 589. He became famous throughout Britain, Ireland and Brittany in France. He was recognised as a Catholic saint in 1120. The village of Menevia, which became known as St David’s, became a popular destination for pilgrims and is the smallest city in the United Kingdom.
Saint David’s Day celebrations throughout Wales
Saint David’s Day is celebrated by people throughout Wales and by Welsh ex-pats the world over. School children dress up in the Welsh National costume and everyone wears a leek or a daffodil in their lapel.
Every school has a St David’s Day concert – poems and stories are recited, and choirs belt out stirring melodies. Parades take place in many towns and cities all over Wales.
In Cardiff, the capital of Wales, there is a food festival and several concerts.
In Swansea, a whole week is dedicated to the saint with many cultural events being held.
Celebrating the day has become much more popular in recent years, as the Welsh recognise what a rich heritage of tradition their forefathers have bequeathed.
Is Dewi Sant Day an Official Holiday?
The Welsh have been campaigning for years to have St David’s Day be an official Bank Holiday in Wales but, although the idea is supported by 87% of Welsh people, it was mooted by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in 2007.
How Do Welsh People Celebrate Dewi Sant Day?
Traditionally, the meal to eat on St David’s Day is ‘cawl’, a rich lamb and vegetable stew prepared over two days.
Cawl was often served as a two course meal – the liquid would be served first as a soup, then the meat and vegetables would be served as a main course.
Cawl is still a favourite meal in Wales and there are many variations on the basic recipe.
To finish the meal Bara Brith (a sweet, fruited bread) or Welsh cakes (similar to drop scones) would be served.
Learn More About this Welsh Holiday
If you have Welsh ancestry, there are many things you could do to mark the national day of Wales. Wear a daffodil if they grow in your area.
Eat Welsh food, listen to Welsh music.
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