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Happy St David's Day

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Published: 1 Mar 2013      

To all the Welsh out there, we would like to wish you a happy St David’s day. For everyone else, don’t worry the singing is great.

So what is St David’s day and who was St David?

  • St David is the patron saint ofWales.
     
  • March 1 is a day of celebration of both St David’s life and of the Welsh culture inWalesand in countries such asCanadaand theUnited States.
     
  • Many people attend special church services, parades, choral recitals or Welsh literature readings. Schools plan celebrations, often involving choirs, on the day.
     
  • The Welsh flag, a red dragon on a white and green background, is displayed prominently and a festive mood prevails.
     
  • Children, particularly girls, and some adults wear traditional costume.
     
  • Other people may pin a daffodil or a leek to their clothes as these are symbols ofWales.
     
  • The traditional meal on St David's Day is cawl. This is a soup that is made of leek and other locally grown produce.

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Public life

St David's Day is not a public holiday in theUnited Kingdomor countries such asCanadaand theUnited States. Therefore government offices, schools, post offices and businesses are open.

However, it is a day of celebration so many schools, institutions and even businesses will have a special program for the day. Some villages and towns hold special parades so there may be some local disruption to traffic or public transport.



The background

St David plays a very important role in Welsh culture but little is known about his life. It is believed that he lived to be 100 years old and that he died in 589, but the first texts on his life only appeared around five hundred years after his death. This means that it is difficult to tell which aspects of the St David’s story are true and which are legend. He was supposed to have been very gentle and physically strong and tall despite eating a frugal diet.

According to this Latin manuscript, Dewi died in the year 589. His mother was called Non, and his father, Sant, was the son of Ceredig, King of Ceredigion. After being educated in Cardiganshire, he went on pilgrimage through southWalesand the west ofEngland, where it is said that he founded religious centres such asGlastonburyand Croyland. He even went on a pilgrimage toJerusalem, where he was made archbishop

He eventually settled at Glyn Rhosyn (St David's), in south-westWales, where he established a very strict ascetic religious community. Many miracles have been attributed to him, the most incredible of which was performed when he was preaching at the Synod of Llanddewibrefi - he caused the ground to rise underneath him so that he could be seen and heard by all. How much truth is in this account of his life by Rhigyfarch is hard to tell. It must be considered that Rhigyfarch was the son of the Bishop of St David's, and that the Life was written as propaganda to establish Dewi's superiority and defend the bishopric from being taken over byCanterburyand theNormans.

From the 12th century onwards, Dewi's fame spread throughout South Wales and as far asIrelandandBrittany. St David's Cathedral became a popular centre of pilgrimage, particularly after Dewi was officially recognised as a Catholic saint in 1120. From this period on, he was frequently referred to in the work of medieval Welsh poets such as Iolo Goch and Lewys Glyn Cothi. In 1398, it was ordained that his feast-day was to be kept by every church in theProvinceofCanterbury. Though the feast of Dewi as a religious festival came to an end with the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the day of his birth became a national festival during the18th century.

St David travelled widely throughoutWales,Cornwallin the south-west ofEngland,BrittanyinFranceand possibly toIrelandandJerusalem.  He founded several churches and a monastery inWalesand eventually became an archbishop. St David was canonized in 1120 and March 1 was included in the church calendar as St David's Day. People started making pilgrimages to St David’s monastery after he was canonized. A cathedral still stands on its original site.

We hope you have a great St David’s day were ever you are in the world.