Need to Know - Saint David
Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Hapus Dydd Gŵyl Dewi
March First is the annual celebration of St. David, the patron Saint of Wales…
Wait…just…a moment! Wales? Is that a country?
Ok, look, Britain can be a confusing concept. Pay close attention, you will get lost otherwise…The United Kingdom (UK) is short for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is a sovereign state but comprises of four countries; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Please be aware Ireland and Northern Ireland are separate countries on one island called Ireland.
Please, I am not finished. Great Britain (or Britain) is a land mass, not a country.
I told you to pay attention. The “Great” is not some label of arrogance about how wonderful we are, just simply because the island it refers to is the largest in the British Isles.
Hush now. The British Isles is the group of islands to the north west of Europe, made of Great Britain, Ireland (the island not the country), The Isle of Man, The Scilly Isles, The channel Islands and over 6,000 other smaller islands.
Yes, just take a look at a map of the west coast of Scotland for example. So bear in mind that England is often used to mean the United Kingdom, but that overlooks Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is similar to the United States, or the EU, comprised of several states to form a sovereign state together.
No, you are right, best avoid that one, so! Each of the countries have their own Patron Saints (And football teams, rugby teams etc)
Ah no, that is Team GB.
Why? Does Northern Ireland compete separately?
No, they don’t.
Shouldn’t it be Team UK then?
Well, yes…well, actually, it should be Team UK & Northern Ireland…Anyway, yes, you can see why it is confusing…
Clear as mud old bean…so this David guy?
Yes ,Patron Saint of Wales and Doves, also known as Dewi Sant in Welsh, was born around 500 ADin Caerfai in Pembrokshire, Wales. He was the son of a Prince of Cardigan and his mother was a daughter of a chieftain…
A Prince of Cardigan? Is that like a Prince of Tides? A patron of clothing? What?
Sigh…Cardigan is a county, a region in Wales…
No, county is an English word for a region, in England and Wales these counties are ancient kingdoms themselves. And yes, much like Sandwiches, Cardigan is named after a titled man who popularised something. Please, can I tell you about Saint David?
Ok, it’s not my fault that your culture, history and language is so utterly confusing…
David went on pilgrimages across Wales and to Cornwall, Britanny, Ireland and Jerusalem where he was made an Archbishop.
Birtanny…is that connected to…
We will discuss that another time…Look, David helped spread Christianity and founded 12 monasteries in his lifetime. He also helped counter the belief that original sin did not taint human nature, but apart from this scant information, very little is known of his life.
Did he get all the snakes out of Wales?
No, that was Saint Patrick in Ireland, we will discuss that another day too. But Saint David is attributed some miracles yes. His most famous one was when he was preaching at Brefi, he raised the ground beneath himself to form a hill so everyone could hear and see him. He is credited with also surviving eating poisoned bread and restored the sight of his tutor St. Paulinus.
Sounds like he had some serious super powers…
Yup, it doesn’t stop there though, in medieval times he was believed to be a nephew of King Arthur and his birth was foretold by Saint Patrick.
The snakes guy!
Yes. He was buried at St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokshire after his death on March 1, 589…
He was buried in a Cathedral named after him?
There is another St. David, from Pembrokshire?
Errr, calm down. The Cathedral was named that after he was canonised by Pope Callixtus in 1120. It was said that two pilgrimages to his shrine were the equivalent value of a pilgrimage to the Vatican and three is worth one trip to Jerusalem.
Like a grey half Rome?
Something like that. His flag is…
Oh I know this one… A red dragon on a field of Green with a white sky…
No, a yellow cross on a black background. David is often depicted with a dove on his shoulder, representing the Holy Spirit giving him the gift of eloquence. People often wear Leeks as remembrance of David’s protection after the Welsh warriors wore them in battle with the Saxons to help identify each other.
People WEAR a vegetable to remember him?
It’s Wales, what do I know I’m English!
Is there anything else I should know?
A quote from his last sermon reads "Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us." And the phrase “Do the little things” has become an inspirational quote in Welsh culture.
Like wear Leeks?
So Welsh people are on holiday today, eating leeks together and catching Doves I assume?
Nope, St. David’s day is not a public holiday, or often referred to as a Bank Holiday in Wales, although it is still tradition for children to have a half day at school.
But if their parents are at work?
They construct small hills and plant leeks? I dunno! Look, it comes as no surprise that St. David’s day is celebrated with food traditions. “Taffies” are like a gingerbread man riding a goat…
You heard me, and wearing a Daffodil…
What? Where did the Daffodil come in?
It is the national symbol of Wales, but people also wear Leeks, which is weirdness that we have already covered. Kids sometimes dress in national costume to go to school, sing traditional folk songs, perform dances or recite poems in concerts or Eisteddfodau
Woah…the Eisteffu what now?
A Welsh word that probably best translates into English as “Session”, imagine a music jam, but with poetry and extra consonants. It comes from two Welsh morphemes “eistedd” meaning “sit” and “bod” meaning “be”.
A sing song then?
Yes. Other activities include a tradition that British army regiments from Wales eat raw leeks on the day.
You Brits really know how to “celebrate”
Well there is normally a parade in Cardiff city centre and other towns and cities across Wales. Castles and other heritage sites have open doors.
But people are at work?
Tell me about it.
So, that is all perfectly clear and understandable, thank you I think.
What did you say?
“Thank you” in Welsh.
I am NOT learning ANOTHER language. Britain is crazy!
United Kingdom and Northern Ireland is crazy…
I’m not listening to you anymore.
Well o.k, Hapus Dydd Gŵyl Dewi to all our Welsh friends...