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St David's Day

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St David's Day

Saint David's Day
Saint David
Official name Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant
Observed by Wales, Welsh people, Welsh diaspora
Type National day in Wales.
Celebrations Children take part in eisteddfodau.
Observances Parades; wearing Welsh emblems, etc.
Date 1 March
2013 date
2014 date
2015 date
2016 date
Next time 1 March 2015 (2015-03-01)
Frequency annual

Saint David's Day (Welsh: Dydd Gŵyl Dewi, Welsh pronunciation: [dɨːð ɡʊɨl ˈdɛui]) is the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, and falls on 1 March each year. The first day of March was chosen in remembrance of the death of Saint David. Tradition holds that he died on that day in 569.[1] The date was declared a national day of celebration within Wales in the 18th century.

Cross-party support resulted in the National Assembly for Wales voting unanimously to make Saint David's Day a public holiday in 2000. A poll conducted for Saint David's Day in 2006 found that 87% of people in Wales wanted it to be a bank holiday, with 65% prepared to sacrifice a different bank holiday to ensure this.[2] A petition in 2007 to make Saint David's Day a bank holiday was rejected by the office of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair.[3]

Significance of the day

Main article: Saint David

Saint David (Welsh: Dewi Sant) was born towards the end of the 5th century. He was a scion of the royal house of Ceredigion, and founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosyn (The Vale of Roses) on the western headland of Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro), at the spot where St David's Cathedral stands today. David's fame as a teacher and ascetic spread throughout the Celtic world. His foundation at Glyn Rhosin became an important Christian shrine, and the most important centre in Wales. The date of Saint David's death is recorded as 1 March, but the year is uncertain – possibly 588. As his tearful monks prepared for his death Saint 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."

For centuries, 1 March has been a national festival. Saint David was recognised as a national patron saint at the height of Welsh resistance to the Normans. Saint David's Day was celebrated by Welsh diaspora from the late Middle Ages. Indeed, the 17th-century diarist Samuel Pepys noted how Welsh celebrations in London for Saint David's Day would spark wider countercelebrations amongst their English neighbours: life-sized effigies of Welshmen were symbolically lynched,[4] and by the 18th century the custom had arisen of confectioners producing "taffies"—gingerbread figures baked in the shape of a Welshman riding a goat—on Saint David's Day.[5]

Saint David's Day is not a national holiday in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Similarly in the United States of America, it has regularly been celebrated, although it is not an official holiday. It is invariably celebrated by Welsh societies throughout the world with dinners, parties, and eisteddfodau (recitals and concerts).

In the poem Armes Prydain, composed in the early to mid-tenth century AD, the anonymous author prophesies that the Cymry (the Welsh people) will unite and join an alliance of fellow-Celts to repel the Anglo-Saxons, under the banner of Saint David: A lluman glân Dewi a ddyrchafant (And they will raise the pure banner of Dewi).[6] Although there were periodic Welsh uprisings in the Middle Ages, the country was not united as a kingdom. In 1485, Henry VII of England, whose ancestry was partly Welsh, became King of England after victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field; his green and white banner, with a red dragon, was adapted in 1959 to become the new Flag of Wales. Henry was the first monarch of the House of Tudor: during this dynasty the royal coat of arms included a Welsh dragon, a reference to the monarch's origins. The Flag of Saint David, though, is a golden cross on a black background: this was not originally part of the symbolism of Henry VII of England.

Saint David's Day events


Cardiff

Every year parades are held in Wales to commemorate Saint David. The largest of these is held in Cardiff and is formally attended by either the British Monarch or the Prince of Wales. Parades are a mixture of folklore and military tattoo[7] Indeed, to mark Saint David's Day, and their return from a six-month tour of Afghanistan, soldiers from the Royal Welsh Regiment provided The Changing of the Guard ceremony at Cardiff Castle's south gate on 27 and 28 February 2010.[8]

On 1 March 2010, the seventh National St David's Day Parade took place in Cardiff city centre. Celebrations included concerts, a parade and a food festival. The food festival ran from 26 February with the third annual Really Welsh Food Festival in Queen Street, featuring all Welsh produce.[9][10] Following the parade, a number of Welsh entertainers performed from a bandstand and in the evening Cardiff Central Library provided free entertainment and food.[10]

Other locations

Public celebrations of Saint David's Day, although still small in number, are becoming more commonplace. In many towns an annual parade through the centre of town is now held. Concerts are held in pubs, clubs, and other venues.

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.[11]

The town of Prestatyn closes the top of the High Street for local schools to participate in Welsh singing and local fundraising.

Swansea inaugurated a St David's Week festival in 2009 with a range of musical, sporting and cultural events held throughout the city to mark the national day.[12]

Disneyland Paris also organises yearly events to celebrate Saint David's Day which include a Welsh-themed week, fireworks, parades and Disney characters dressed in traditional Welsh attire.[13]

The Los Angeles St. David's Day Festival - National Day of Wales is the largest annual event of its kind in the United States encompassing an eisteddfod, Celtic marketplace, classes, and a concert.[14]

Traditions

Children in Wales 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.

Additionally, various Welsh Regiments of the British Army utilize aspects of Saint David's cross, Saint David himself, or songs of Saint David in their formalities during the celebrations. 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 leek arises 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.[15] The association between leeks and daffodils is strengthened by the fact that they have similar names in Welsh, Cenhinen (leek) and Cenhinen Pedr (daffodil, literally "Peter's leek"). 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 Saint David's Day.

References

External links

Holidays portal
  • www.stdavidsday.org The official site of the St.David's Day Parade in Cardiff
  • Walesdotcom St David's Day information Includes a quiz, activities and Welsh recipes
  • BBC News 1st St David's Day Parade
  • Chicago's Wrigley Building lit in Welsh colours for St. David's Day 2009
  • St. David's day on ABC7 Chicago, Illinois
  • Full text of Illinois House Resolution HR0149 proclaming St. David's Day and the Welsh contribution to the State of Illinois
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