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Saint David's Day

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Saint David's Day
Jesus Chapel St David
Late 19th century stained glass window of Saint David in Jesus Chapel, Oxford, England.
Official name Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant
Observed by Wales
Type National day in Wales.
Date 1 March
Celebrations Children take part in eisteddfodau.
Observances Parades; wearing Welsh emblems, etc.

Saint David's Day (Welsh: Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant) is the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, and falls on 1 March each year. The date of March 1st was chosen in remembrance of the death of Saint David on that day in 589, and has been celebrated by followers since then. The date was declared a national day of celebration within Wales in the 18th century.

In 2006 Saint David's Day was officially celebrated on 28 February by Roman Catholics and on 2 March by the Anglican Church in Wales, because 1 March 2006 was Ash Wednesday, which is a day of penitence on which feast days are not celebrated.[1][2]

A poll conducted for Saint David's Day in 2006 found that 87% of the Welsh wanted it to be a bank holiday, with 65% prepared to sacrifice a different bank holiday to ensure this.[3] A petition in 2007 to make St. David's Day a bank holiday was rejected by the then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.[4]

St. David's Day events

St Davids Day in Cardiff

St. David's Day Parade Cardiff

Every year parades are held in Wales to commemorate St. David. The largest of these is held in Cardiff.[5]

In the town of Colwyn Bay in north Wales, an annual parade through the centre of town is now held with several hundred citizens and schoolchildren taking part. Other events are centred around the parade.[6]

The city of Swansea inaugurated a St David's Week festival in 2009 with a range of musical, sporting and cultural events held throughout Swansea to mark the national day. [7]

The significance of St. David's Day

For centuries the first of March has been a national festival. St David was recognised as a national patron saint at the height of Welsh resistance to the Normans.

In 2003 in the United States, St. David's Day was recognised officially as the national day of the Welsh, and on 1 March the Empire State Building was floodlit in the national colours, red, green and white. It is invariably celebrated by Welsh societies throughout the world with dinners, parties, recitals and concerts.

To celebrate this day, people wear a symbol of either a leek, or daffodil. The leek is patriotic, arising 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. An alternative emblem developed in recent years is the daffodil, used and preferred over the leek by the British Government as it lacks the overtones of patriotic defiance associated with the leek.[8]

In the poem Armes Prydain, composed in the early to mid-tenth century AD, the anonymous author prophesises that the Cymry (the Welsh people) will unite and join an alliance of fellow-Celts to repel the Anglo-Saxons, under the banner of St David: A lluman glân Dewi a ddyrchafant (And they will raise the pure banner of Dewi).[9]

St. David

Saint Non's Chapel - Fenster 5 St.David

1934 stained glass window of Saint David in Our Lady and Saint Non's chapel, Saint David's, Wales.

Dewi Sant – St. David was born towards the end of the fifth century, less than a hundred years after the last Roman legions had marched out of Wales. He was a scion of the royal house of Ceredigion, his mother was Non, daughter of Cynyr of Caio, remembered by numerous churches and holy wells in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. Educated at Henfynyw (Old Menevia) in Ceredigion, where he 'learned the alphabet, the psalms, the lessons for the whole year, the Masses and the Synaxis', he founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosin (The Vale of Roses) on the western headland of Sir Benfro, at the spot where St. David's Cathedral stands today. The spot may well have been the site of a very early religious community, for it is also associated with Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, who may have been born in Wales and is said to have spent time at Glyn Rhosyn before embarking again (this time voluntarily) for Ireland from Porth Mawr nearby.

David's fame as a teacher and ascetic spread throughout the Celtic world. He earned the curious nickname Dewi Ddyfrwr – David the Waterman – no doubt reflecting the harsh bread-and-water regime of Celtic monks. Many traditions and legends are associated with him. When he rose to address to a great crowd at a synod at Llanddewi Brefi in Ceredigion, the ground rose under his feet forming a little hill so that all could hear him speak. Again, a golden-beaked dove is said to have landed on his shoulder as a symbol of his holiness.

His foundation at Glyn Rhosin became one of the most important shrines of the Christian world, and the most important centre in Wales. Roads and tracks from all over the nation led to it and in the Middle Ages two pilgrimages to Menevia was equal to one to Rome (Dos i Rufain unwaith, ac i Fynyw ddwywaith - Go to Rome once, and come to Monmouth twice). Over fifty churches and innumerable holy wells were dedicated to him in Wales alone.

The religious centre of St David's thus became a focus for the religious aspirations of the Welsh nation and as Gerallt Cymro (Giraldus Cambrensis) relates: The Bishopric of St Davids became ... a symbol of the independence of Wales ... and that is why David himself was exalted into a Patron Saint of Wales.

The date of Dewi Sant's death is recorded as March 1st, 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' and as he died 'Lords, brothers and sisters, be cheerful, keep the faith, and do those little things which ye have seen me do and heard me say.'


St david's day swansea 2009

Water in Swansea Castle Square Fountain dyed red for St. David's day

Children take part in school concerts or eisteddfodau, with recitation and singing being the main activities. Formerly, a half-day holiday was afforded to school children. Officially this custom does not continue, although the practice can vary on a school-to-school basis.

Public celebrations of St. David's Day are becoming more commonplace. In many towns an annual parade through the centre of town is now held (see above). Concerts are held in pubs, clubs, and other venues.

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 association between leeks and daffodils is strengthened by the fact that they have similar names in Welsh, Cenin (leek) and Cenin Bedr (daffodil, literally "Peter's leek").

Flag of Saint David

The flag of Saint David.

In South Wales, males usually wear leeks while young girls wear daffodils; in North Wales the daffodil predominates. The 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 often plays a central role in the celebrations and can be seen flying throughout Wales.

Cawl is frequently prepared and consumed on St. David's Day.


  1. "Three St David's days? Thank God". BBC News. 27 February 2006. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  2. Happy Saint David's Day!, Independent Catholic News.
  3. Guto Thomas (1 March 2006). "Poll backs St David's Day holiday". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  4. Bank-Holiday - epetition reply: Prime Minister rejects petition to make St David's Day holiday, 10 Downing Street.
  5. St. David's Day Parade Cardiff-Gorymdaith Gwyl Dewi Sant Caerdydd – Official Site for the St David's Day Parade in Cardiff.
  6. Video of 2007 Colwyn Bay St. Davids's Day Parade
  7. St David's Week in Swansea
  8. [1] – Dydd Dewi Sant on
  9. Ifor Williams (ed.), Armes Prydein (University of Wales Press, 1955), line 129.

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Saint David's Day. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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