What is Saint David’s Day and How it’s Celebrated?

Let us get to know about Saint David’s day, an annual celebration in Wales to honor St. David, the patron saint of Wales. 

“Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!”

“Happy St. David’s day!”

When we hear the word, “David”, the first thing that comes to mind is David – the shepherd, father of King Solomon, and God’s beloved. However, he is not the only David worth celebrating.

Want to know about the other David or Dewi Sant? About Saint David’s day? Let us learn about what this celebration is all about. Let us also get to know Saint David himself – patron saint of Wales, a monk, and part of the Welsh heritage.

Saint David’s Day

History of Saint David’s Day

In 589, St. David died on the first day of March – which is now celebrated as St David’s Day. His influence went far and wide following his death. First through Britain, then by the sea to Cornwall and Brittany. David was later canonized by Pope Callixtus II in 1120. He was thereafter proclaimed the Patron Saint of Wales.

Who is Saint David?

St. David, or Dewi Sant, was a native-born patron saint of Wales. Born in West Wales in the year 500, St. David was the grandson of King of Ceredigion Ceredig ap Cunedda. His mother, St. Non, gave birth to him amid a terrible storm on a Pembrokeshire clifftop.

St. David became a well-known preacher who established monasteries and churches. As a preacher, when David spoke at the Synod of Brefi, the soil beneath his feet rose to form a hill. This happened so that his words could be heard and he could be seen.

Aside from being born amid a terrible storm, another fact about St. David is that he was a vegetarian. He ate only leeks and did not eat meat. According to scholars, leeks which are one of the national emblems of Wales, are linked to St. David. This is because leeks are worn in honor of St. David’s guidance during a battle against the Saxons.

“Be joyful, preserve the faith, and do the simple things that you have heard and seen me do.”

These were St. David’s last words to his disciples in his final sermon the Sunday before his death. “Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd” or “Do the little things in life” – remains a well-known phrase in Wales.

In 589, St. David died on March 1st. He was buried at St David’s Cathedral. His shrine serves as a major pilgrimage destination throughout the Middle Ages.

The flag of Saint David (Baner Dewi Sant) is a yellow cross on a black background. However, it has also been seen with a black cross on a yellow field or an engraved cross.

The Works of Saint David

His Contributions to Christianity

Saint David was a renowned preacher, a teacher, a man of prayer, and a performer of miracles. He was the core of the monastic community he formed in what is now St. Davids. He also shaped the spirituality of people of his time and place, especially the Welsh. His teachings and the activity of monks he influenced through founding monastic settlements made this possible.

David became a missionary and traveled throughout Wales and the United Kingdom. He also visited Jerusalem, where he was eventually consecrated to be a bishop. He also established 12 monasteries. Among these are Minevia (St. Davids) and Glastonbury, where he established his bishopric. In 550, during the Synod of Brevi, Cardiganshire, he was named Archbishop of Wales.

His Miracles

The formation of a hill beneath St. David as he preached to a big crowd, where a white dove landed on his shoulder during this event is his most famous miracle. However, St. David is also credited with the resurrection of a dead child and the restoration of sight of a blind man.

Saint David as a Monk

In the sixth century, St. David was a major figure and monk in the early Welsh Church. He established a small, austere monastic community, following the Celtic monastic tradition. It linked the people of Wales to Ireland, Cornwall, France, and the Scottish Isles. He attracted followers from Wales and preached extensively aside from founding monastic settlements.

David believed that monks must live simply, and he forbade his followers from doing so. Thus, the brothers would have to work hard aside from praying and attending church. They awoke early for prayer and then worked in the monastery and surrounding farms. “Every man has his own ox,” David said, referring to the fact that he would not let them employ animals to work for them.

When is Saint David’s Day Celebrated?

Annually, on March 1, people in Wales and those of Welsh descent commemorate the life and works of their patron saint, Saint David, as well as the Welsh culture.

The day is revered as St. David is the sole native-born patron saint of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Saint David’s Day

Where is Saint David’s Day Celebrated?

Generally, St. David’s day is celebrated throughout Wales. The most well-known site of the festivities is in Cardiff City Center. This is where there are several dragon exhibitions, concerts, and theater companies.

Wrexham, Aberystwyth, Lampeter, Carmarthen, and Colwyn Bay are among the towns that hold annual processions and festivals. Croeso (meaning “welcome” in Welsh) is a two-day celebration of music, food, and entertainment held in Swansea’s city center.

How is Saint David’s Day Celebrated?

The national day of St. David is marked by special events, festivities, ornaments, and foods to honor the saint’s life. This celebration of the Welsh people, religious communities, and even pilgrims is generally expressed in foods, costumes, and music.

Religious activities like mass celebrations for the Catholic community and visits to Wales’s heritage sites like the St. Davids Cathedral or the St. Davids Bishop’s Palace are also observed.

Foods

Welsh cuisine is also celebrated on Saint David’s Day. The Welsh rarebit, a delectable baked bread with cheese, is one of the traditional dishes to try on this special day.

Try Cawl, a native Welsh vegetable and meat soup, Glamorgan sausages, and vegetarian sausages made of leeks, which are also something one should try during St. David’s day festivities.

If you have a sweet tooth, the delectable Welsh cakes or the Bara Brith should be on your list. These delicacies are specifically perfect for tea time. It is also a perfect way to experience Welsh culture as it is part of the culinary heritage of the Welsh people.

St. David’s day is also an ideal time to enjoy eating traditional Welsh food and dine in Cardiff’s restaurants.

Costumes

To celebrate St. David’s Day, the people of Wales are known for wearing daffodils and leeks aside from the traditional Welsh dress.

Leeks are worn in honor of St. David’s guidance during a battle against the Saxons. He is said to have told the warriors of Welsh to wear leeks to distinguish themselves from their opponents. Leeks, then, became a national symbol after the Welsh won the fight. It also became an ornament that Welsh people wear in celebrating St. David’s Day.

When compared to the traditional Welsh ties of leeks, the daffodil has recently gained national significance. During the 19th century, it became famous among women when Welsh-born Prime Minister David Lloyd George wore it to celebrate St. David’s Day.

Several children also dress up in traditional clothing of Wales. These types of clothes are mostly worn by women in rural Wales during the late 1800s and early 1900s. A white shawl and a black cap are also worn, with many wearing a yellow daffodil attached to the attire.

Boys also have a traditional St David’s Day outfit that includes a waistcoat, a cap, and a bowtie in the same colors.

Music

Celebrating St. David’s Day will not be complete without traditional Welsh dancing and singing to commemorate Saint David. During this celebration, hymns and poems are sung throughout the country in both Welsh and English. This also includes the National Anthem, the Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.

What Happens During the National Saint David’s Day Parade?

Annually on March 1 in Cardiff City Center, the National St. David’s Day Parade takes place as a celebration of the culture and heritage of Wales.

This festivity is a non-military parade bringing together a variety of cultural groups, students, and musicians. It also brings a large number of people dressed in traditional Welsh clothing. St. David’s flag – a yellow cross on a black background – including the red-and-yellow lions associated with the Welsh princes will also be visible together with the sea of red dragon banners and flags.

The event usually begins in the Civic Centre of Cardiff. It then makes its way down to Hayes, where the audience sings the national hymn, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, in unison.

Aberystwyth, Carmarthen, Wrexham, Colwyn Bay, and Lampeter are among the towns across the country that hold annual processions and festivals for Saint David’s Day.

Saint David’s Day

In Summary

Saint David’s Day is an annual event observed on 1 March to celebrate the patron saint of Wales. It is a remembrance for the people of Wales of the life and works of Saint David or Dewi Sant. It is also a celebration of their rich culture and heritage. May every time we hear, “Happy St. David’s Day” or “Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus”, we also remember to recognize St. David’s life’s works.

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Alex Shute
EDITOR
Alex Shute, MBA
Alex is a family man and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. His passion is to serve the global Church and bring people of diverse backgrounds together to learn & grow.