significance of St David's Day
centuries the first of March has been a national festival.
St David was recognized as a national patron saint a very
long time ago, at the height of Welsh resistance to the
Normans. In our time, on this one day, everyone and anyone
with a connection to Wales remembers their Welsh origins
In 2003 in the United States, St David's Day was recognized
officially as the national day of the Welsh, and on 1st
March the Empire State Building was floodlit in the national
colours, red, green and white. It is invariably celebrated
by Welsh societies throughout the world with dinners, parties,
recitals and concerts. On this day many people wear (where
they can find them!) a daffodil, traditionally Wales's national
David's Day unites Welsh people from Patagonia to Siberia in a celebration
of their shared identity.
and even mischievous, arguments have been put forward recently
about the 'cost to the economy' of 'yet another' official
national holiday in the United Kingdom. Yet the UK has fewer
such holidays than almost any other country in Europe. To
honour our patron saint, our heritage, our history, and
to celebrate our talents and achievements, and a shared
present and future is scarcely too much to ask!
politics and petty differences, St David is a peerless,
noble figurehead for the Welsh nation, a unifying and benevolent
symbol in a dangerous and greedy world. In the Armes Prydain,
an epic written more than a thousand years ago, the poet
prophesied that in the future, when all might seem lost
to us, the Cymry would unite to follow David as their leader:
'A lluman glān Dewi a ddyrchafant' ..... 'And they will raise
the pure banner of Dewi' .
was St David?
Dewi Sant - St David was born towards the end of the fifth
century, less than a hundred years after the last Roman
legions had marched out of Wales. He was the son of Sant
a scion of the royal house of Ceredigion, his mother was
Non, daughter of Cynyr of Caio, remembered by numerous churches
and holy wells in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. Educated
at Henfynyw (Old Menevia) in Ceredigion, where he 'learned
the alphabet, the psalms, the lessons for the whole year,
the Masses and the Synaxis', he founded a Celtic monastic
community at Glyn Rhosin (The Vale of Roses) on the western
headland of Sir Benfro, at the spot where St Davids Cathedral
stands today. The spot may well have been the site of a
very early religious community, for it is also associated
with St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, who, having
been born in south Wales, is said to have spent some time
at Glyn Rhosyn before embarking for Ireland from Porth Mawr
fame as a teacher and ascetic spread throughout the Celtic
world. He earned the curious nickname Dewi Ddyfrwr - David
the Waterman - no doubt reflecting the harsh bread-and-water
regime of Celtic monks. Many traditions and legends are
associated with him. When he rose to address to a great
crowd at a synod at Llanddewi Brefi in Ceredigion, the ground
rose under his feet forming a little hill so that all could
hear him speak. Again, a golden-beaked dove is said to have
landed on his shoulder as a symbol of his holiness.
foundation at Glyn Rhosyn became one of the most important
shrines of the Christian world, and the most important centre
in Wales. Roads and tracks from all over the nation led
to it and in the Middle Ages two pilgrimages to Menevia
was equal to one to Rome. Over fifty churches and innumerable holy wells
were dedicated to him in Wales alone.
religious centre of St Davids thus became a focus for the
religious aspirations of the Welsh nation and as Gerallt
Cymro (Giraldus Cambrensis) relates: 'The Bishopric of St
Davids became .....a symbol of the independence of Wales...and
that is why David himself was exalted into a Patron Saint
of Wales.' St Davids has for more than a millennium been
the spiritual heart of our nation and the focus of its ideals.
date of Dewi Sant's death is recorded as 1st March, but
the year is uncertain - possibly 589. As his tearful monks
prepared for his death St 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' and as he died 'Lords, brothers
and sisters, be cheerful, keep the faith, and do those little
things which ye have seen me do and heard me say.'
Sant, was incidentally, the only patron saint of the four
chief nations of these islands to have been born in the
land which adopted him.
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