St. David’s Day 2021 Complete History
What is St. David’s Day?
St. David’s Day is a Christian feast day celebrated annually on March 1 in honor of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales (“Dewi Sant” in Welsh), who is said to have died on March 1, 589, though that date is not certain.
David was a native of Wales and a member of the royal family of Cunedda. He rose to fame as archbishop and founder of a number of monasteries.
On St. David’s Day daffodils and leeks, the national emblems of Wales, are worn, in a tribute to Saint David who is said to have eaten only leeks when fasting and to have advised soldiers to wear leeks on their helmets in a battle against Saxons so they could distinguish each other from the enemies. Cities and towns in Wales hold parades on the day, flying the Welsh flag (or alternatively the flag of Saint David, a yellow cross on a black field) and displaying dragons, another symbol of Wales. Recitations and choir singing is performed, and the national anthem is played.
St. David’s Day, also spelled Saint David’s Day, is not a public holiday in Wales. It is one of the four Saints’ days of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom:
After his death, his influence spread far and wide, first through Britain and then by sea to Cornwall and Brittany. In 1120, Pope Callistus II canonized David as a Saint. Following this, he was declared Patron Saint of Wales. Such was Davids’s influence that many pilgrimages were made to St. David’s, and the Pope decreed that two pilgrimages made to St. Davids equaled one to Rome while three were worth one to Jerusalem. Fifty churches in South Wales alone bear his name.
It is not certain how much of the history of St. David is fact and how much is mere speculation. However in 1996 bones were found in St. David’s Cathedral which, it is claimed, could be those of Dewi himself. Perhaps these bones can tell us more about St David: priest, bishop, and patron saint of Wales.
Is St. David’s Day a public holiday?
In 2000, the National Assembly for Wales voted unanimously to make St. David’s Day a public holiday and public support in Wales has remained strong. Despite this, all moves so far to make St. David’s Day a bank holiday have been rejected by the British Government.
In 2007, former Prime Minister Tony Blair rejected calls for it to become a public holiday, despite a poll at the time showing that 87% of Welsh people were in favor.
This has resulted in the situation, within the United Kingdom, where Scotland and Northern Ireland have public holidays for their patron saints, but England and Wales don’t.
Every year parades are held in Wales to commemorate St. David. The largest of these is held in Cardiff.
On St. David’s Day, Welsh people may wear one or both of the national emblems of Wales on their lapel – the daffodil or the leek on this day. The tradition of wearing a leek is said to have arisen when a unit of Welsh soldiers was able to distinguish each other from troops of similarly attired English enemy soldiers by wearing leeks.
The Daffodil flowers early in the year and makes it a fitting emblem for St. David as it is in full bloom by March 1st.
On March 1st the Empire State Building will be floodlit in the national colors of Wales – red, green, and white.
HISTORY OF ST. DAVID’S DAY
St David’s Day has been celebrated since the year 1120 and is a huge celebration for the Welsh. Who is St David? St David was the greatest figure in the 6th century Welsh Age of Saints, founder of scores of religious communities, and the only native-born patron saint of the countries of Britain and Ireland.
Most of what we know about St David was written by the 11th-century scholar Rhygyfarch. He tells us that St David was born in Pembrokeshire around the year 500, the grandson of Ceredig ap Cunedda, king of Ceredigion. He became a renowned preacher, founding monastic settlements and churches in Wales, Brittany, and England – including, possibly, the abbey at Glastonbury.
He’s said to have made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem where he became an archbishop and established a strict religious community in what is now St Davids in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. He was famed for his pious austerity, as he is believed to have lived on only leeks and water.
Many people claimed that St David was able to perform miracles. One of the more famous miracles associated with him is that once while preaching at Llandewi Brefi, he caused the ground to rise beneath his feet so that everyone could hear his sermon. During the incident, a white dove is said to have landed on his shoulder, as he is so often depicted now. Other miracles are believed to be St David resurrecting a dead child and restoring sight to a blind man.
St David died on 1 March – St David’s Day – in 589. He was canonized by Pope Callixtus in the 12th century, and St David’s Day has been celebrated ever since. His shrine at St. David’s became a notable place of pilgrimage, especially during the Middle Ages.
Traditional festivities include wearing daffodils and leeks, recognized symbols of Wales and Saint David respectively, eating traditional Welsh food including cawl and Welsh rarebit, and women wearing traditional Welsh dress. An increasing number of cities and towns across Wales including Cardiff, Swansea, and Aberystwyth also put on parades throughout the day.
The Story of Saint David
St David was born in the year 500, the grandson of Ceredig ap Cunedda, king of Ceredigion. According to legend, his mother St Non gave birth to him on a Pembrokeshire clifftop during a fierce storm. The spot is marked by the ruins of Non’s Chapel, and a nearby holy well is said to have healing powers.
Swords clashed as the men of Wales fought for hours to protect their land from the Saxon invaders. But despite their efforts, the Welsh were slowly losing. In the heat of the battle, it was difficult to tell friend from foe. The fact that both sides wore similar clothing made the fight all the more confusing.
A monk noticed that this was becoming a grave problem. As the Welsh lost more and more ground, the monk cried out to them, “Welshmen, you must mark yourselves so that you can better tell who is Saxon and who is Welsh. The monk plucked a leek plant from the ground and continued, “Here, wear these so you will know that any soldier who does not have a leek is your enemy.”
Some of the soldiers thought this was a rather odd idea, but the monk was one of God’s men so they went along with it. Soon every Welsh soldier was wearing a leek on his helmet. They attacked the invaders and before long, the Welsh had won the battle.
The monk who came up with the idea of wearing a leek was named David. David died on March 1st. After he died, the Catholic Church made him a saint.
St. David (Dewi Sant in Welsh) is the patron saint of Wales, and March 1, his feast day, is celebrated as a patriotic and cultural festival by the Welsh in Wales and around the world. The leek is the national flower of Wales. Welsh people all over the world proudly wear the stalk, flower or a bit of leaf from a leek plant on March 1st.
The welsh leek has a flower much like a daffodil (which is quite a bit easier to find around the world in March), so many use daffodils instead.
That’s just one of many stories about Saint David — no one’s quite sure if it’s true.
There are many other stories about the man. It is also said that he once rose a youth from death, and milestones during his life were marked by the appearance of springs of water.
Later in life, David was made Archbishop. The story of that day is that when the decision was being made as to whether David was to be Archbishop, a great crowd gathered. When David stood up to speak, one of the congregation shouted, ‘We won’t be able to see or hear him. At that instant, the ground rose till everyone could see and hear David.