St David's Day


When is St David's Day?

Every year on 1 March, Welsh people celebrate their patron saint, St David.

What do we know about St David?

Little is known about him for certain. What little information we have is based on an account of his life written by Rhigyfarch towards the end of the 11th century.

When was St David alive?

According to Rhigyfarch's Latin manuscript, St David 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 south Wales and the west of England, where it is said that he founded religious centres such as Glastonbury and Croyland. He even went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he was made archbishop.

Why is St David considered the Patron Saint of Wales?

St David eventually settled at Glyn Rhosyn (St David's), in south-west Wales, 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 by Canterbury and the Normans.

How did St David become popular?

From the 12th century onwards, St David's fame spread throughout South Wales and as far as Ireland and Brittany. St David's Cathedral became a popular centre of pilgrimage, particularly after Dewi was officially recognised as a Catholic saint in 1120.

Flag of St David

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 the Province of Canterbury.

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 the 18th century.

How is St David's Day celebrated?

Now March 1 is celebrated by schools and cultural societies throughout Wales. It is the custom on that day to wear either a leek or a daffodil – two national emblems of Wales – and for children to wear the national costume.

It has become the national costume of Wales. But how does it compare with Welsh costumes from the past?

Why is the leek a Welsh symbol?

National emblem - the leek

Legend has it that St David ordered his soldiers to wear leeks on their helmets during a battle against the Saxons during the sixth century, while the Battle of Crecy, in 1346, featured loyal and brave Welsh archers who fought in a field of leeks.

By 1536, when Henry VIII gave one to his daughter on 1 March, the leek was already associated with St David's Day. It is possible that the green and white family colours adopted by the Tudors were taken from their liking for the leek.

When did people start wearing a daffodil on St David's day?

National emblem - the daffodil

In comparison with the ancient Welsh associations of the leek, the daffodil has only recently assumed a position of national importance.

An increasingly popular flower during the 19th century, especially among women, its status was elevated by the Welsh-born prime minister David Lloyd George, who wore it on St David's Day and used it in ceremonies in 1911 to mark the investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon.

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