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International Observances: St. David’s Day

In honor of the patron saint of the Welsh, St. David, (or Dewi Sant), the first of March is known as St. David’s Day. The Welsh in Wales are not only ones to celebrate his feast day, but the patriotic and cultural significance is observed in other parts of the world. In this article, you will learn more about the observance.

Born from the son of the King of Cardigan, Dewi Sant was a Celtic monk who lived during the 6th century. Not much is known about the man who is at the center of the religious observance. One thing is for sure; he was at the center of establishing several religious centers in Wales and western England. During a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, David was identified as a consecrated archbishop who followed a frugal lifestyle.

Some of what we know about David has come from old writings. Towards the end of the 11th century, an account of his life had been written by a monk at Llanbadarn Fawr named Rhygyfarch. Dewi Sant was often associated with prophecies and miracles, as it was said that many predictions and miracles were attributed to him after his birth. One tale speaks of Dewi preaching to a crowd at Llandewi Brefi. People on the outer edges could not hear, so he is said to have spread a handkerchief on the ground, and stood on it while he preached. The ground supposedly swelled underneath his feet and at that point, everyone could hear what he had to say.

Rhygyfarch pinpointed the death of Dewi Sant as taking place on March 1, which is where the date of the celebration originated. Up until the Protestant Reformation took place during the 16th century, his death was celebrated as a religious festival. During the 18th century, the Welsh celebrated the date as a national festival, which is still observed to this day. Singing and eating are just some of the ways the day is celebrated. Usually, people gather to eat after joyous singing or singing follows a serving of tea with teisen bach and bara brith , called Te Bach.

The Red Dragon (Y Ddraig Goch) is an important symbol of heraldry in Wales, which is flown as a flag or worn as pendants and pins. Leeks also play a role. They are actually worn, and sometimes eaten. Boys attending school in Wales take leeks to school, as they serve as a status symbol. Whoever brings the largest leeks and eat them early in the day earned their stripes. Most recent times see the daffodil being used as part of the celebration. The English government prefers the flower to the leek, which is often viewed for its connection to patriotic defiance. Younger girls may go to school dressed in traditional clothing.

The celebrations of St. David’s Day are not the rowdy gatherings of the past centered on democracy and freedom. The festivals of today offer a remembrance of the past, when the nation was under the control of colonial rule.

St. David’s Day Events

In Wales, parades are held every year to commemorate St. David with the largest being held in Cardiff. Celebrations in public for St. David’s Day are becoming increasingly popular in other places. Many regions host an annual parade that takes place through the center of the town. In pubs, clubs, and other hot spots, locals attend concerts in honor of the day. The town of Colwyn Bay in northern Wales has a yearly parade that includes hundreds of citizens and schoolchildren.