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Quote of the Day - To be born in Wales, not with a silver spoon in your mouth, but, with music in your blood and with poetry in your soul, is a privilege indeed. - Brian Harris

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus! Happy St David's Day!

Today, March 1, is St. David's day, and celebrated by wearing a leek or a daffodil in your buttonhole if you're Welsh like me.  You can also fly his flag, St. David's Cross, which has a black background and a yellow cross.  According to his biography written in the 11th Century, St. David, known as Dewi Sant, died on March 1, 589.  Born in approximately 487, his lineage is considered royal, and he is popularly and proudly traced back to King Arthur through his mother, Lady Non, who was the daughter of a local chieftain.  Legend has it that Lady Non was a niece of King Arthur.

St. David is believed to have established many churches and some five monasteries in Wales and in 545 took a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he was anointed by the patriarch.  St. David's Cathedral is named for him and dedicated to his memory, and at least one city is named after him.  Apart from this productivity, he lived an ascetic life, eating leeks and other vegetarian fare, bread with salt and herbs, drinking only water, avoiding alcohol and meat.  In his last sermon before he died he said, "'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."  The phrase, 'Do the little things' ('Gwnewch y pethau bychain') is today a very well-known phrase in Wales, and has proved an inspiration to many.

St. David's influence in the country is far-reaching.  As an example, the emblem of Wales is the leek, which came from a battle near a castle between the Welsh and Saxon English.  At St. David's advice, troops of Welsh wore leeks on their "uniforms" and  were thus able to distinguish each other from troops of Saxon English enemy, who were dressed in similar clothes.  The English government has instead developed the daffodil as an alternative emblem in recent history, used and preferred over the leek by the English government because it lacks the overtones of Wales' patriotic defiance associated with the leek.

Unlike many other Welsh saints, David was canonised by Pope Callixtus II in 1120.  In 1398, the church ordained that his feast-day was to be kept throughout the Province of Canterbury.  The feast of Dewi as a religious festival came to an end, however, with the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, but St. David's Day was established as a national festival during the18th century.  The day is celebrated by children wearing the Welsh National Costume:  schoolgirls in a pais a betgwn - a petticoat and overcoat - made of Welsh flannel, and a tall beaver hat, worn over a frilled white bonnet. The boys wear a white shirt with a jabbot and wrist frills, a Welsh flannel waistcoat, black breeches, long woollen socks and black shoes and to complete the outfit, also a flat beaver hat.

The day is celebrated by parades, dancing, singing (link has sound, and is the National Anthem of Wales, Land of My Fathers), eating and no school.  To honor St. David as you go about your day, don't forget to do the little things.  And on St. Patrick's Day, don't forget to wear orange (a typical Welsh dig at the Irish). 

Posted by J. Craig Williams on 3/1/2006 at 17:30 Comments (0)


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