My memory of the celebration of St. David's Day in the village, near Swansea, where I grew up, was a special event organized by the teachers in the boy's elementary school. Lessons were suspended for the day but we were required to attend and report to our respective home rooms where the teacher called the register. When this had been completed,all pupils were marched single file to the main hall where they were seated on the floor.
When all were assembled, the headmaster led the singing of a few traditional tunes; several of the older boys would prefer other forms of expression until quelled by the disapproving eye of one of the teachers.
It was then time for the headmaster to introduce the keynote speaker who was always my great-uncle. He was the first headmaster of the school and had retired from that position in the early nineteen hundreds: As a student of Welsh History he was well qualified to speak on that subject, and he entertained the gathered pupils with tales of famous Welsh personalities of bygone eras, not least among
them was the life and times of "Dewi Sant." His presentations, which lasted for about thirty minutes,
were gleaned from memory, as he was totally without sight. When the formal activities ended, the headmaster, obviously a Mr. Jones, dismissed those present for the remainder of the day. St. Dai's birthday was always popular.
Owen A Harries
Owen is a member of the St. David's Welsh Society of Georgia. He originally comes from CASLLWCHWR (which is short for CASTELLLLWCHWR).
"The Romans called it LEUCARUM. The old place has quite a history."-Owen A. Harries.
St. David's Day
Dydd Gwyl Ddewi
But who was St. David, & why is he so important to the Welsh?
And just how is St. David's Day celebrated in Wales today?
St David's Day is celebrated in Wales on 1 March, in honour of Dewi Sant or St David, the patron saint of Wales. 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.
According to this Latin manuscript, Dewi 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.
He 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.
From the 12th century onwards, Dewi'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. 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 the18th century.
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 of our national emblems - and for young girls to wear the national costume.
Reprinted from the website of the
National Museums and Galleries of Wales
Here are some other ideas for St. David's Day:
•Read Rhys James Jones' excellent article
This article is based on a talk given at the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union Meeting Point on February 28, 1994.
•Help your Children make a St. David Doll or color some St. David's Day pictures. Visit our
•Prepare a Welsh Meal and invite friends over to share it with you, Yn Y Gegin (In the Kitchen)
has a sample menu and plenty of recipes to help make it a great sucess.
•If you are a Welsh Learner try your hand at reading this short story about Dewi Sant
•Fly the Y Ddraig Goch or The St. David's Cross, wear a daffodil, attend the Local Welsh Society's Activities.
And test your
(answers at the end of the quiz)
The Flag of St David is associated with Wales and appears in a variety of forms, a gold field with a black cross or a black field with a gold cross - the cross sometimes being engrailed. This flag was originally taken from the Coat of Arms of the Diocesan of St David. The black and gold (yellow) flag is flown in Wales as well as the Red Dragon.
It has always been my understanding that
that flower (daffodil) was not used as a national symbol until it was promoted as such by the Welsh born Prime Minister, Lloyd George. I don't remember where I obtainedthat information, but it may be
"duff gen." Owen A. Harries