by Katy Depledge
History and Heritage
St David is the patron saint of Wales, celebrated every year on St David’s Day. But, who was St David? When was he born? And why do people wear leeks on St David’s Day?
Keep reading to discover 10 interesting facts about St David and St David’s Day…
St David’s Day is the National Day of Wales, celebrated on the 1st March every year.
St David (Dewi Sant) is the patron saint of Wales, born on the southwest coast of Wales, not far from where the city of St Davids is today.
To mark St David’s Day, people from all over the world proudly wear a daffodil or leek; Wales’s national emblems. Parades and concerts are also held in and around the country to celebrate the patron saint of Wales.
Many people celebrate St David’s Day by displaying the flag of St David. The flag, featuring a yellow cross on a black background is believed to be the original Welsh flag.
The costumes you may see being worn on St David’s Day have their origins in the 18th century. The traditional welsh dress includes a black hat with white trim, long skirts and shawls. Whilst many children will be seen wearing a Welsh rugby or football shirt to celebrate the day.
A favourite saying on St David’s Day and one of the most well-known phrases in the Welsh language is ‘Gwnewch y pethau bychain’ (do the little things). These words were apparently the last words uttered by Wales’s patron saint, before his death in 589AD. The words suggest that it is the small actions we take in life that are just as important as the big ones.
The leek which you will see being worn with pride on St David’s Day is not a native vegetable of Wales. It was, in fact, introduced by the Romans during their invasion. The root vegetable is cited as a symbol of Wales in Shakespeare’s Henry V.
It is thought that St David suggested men went into battle wearing a leek on their helmets for identification purposes. The leek features in the uniforms of Welsh regiments today.
“Taffy” is often used as a nickname for a Welshman. It is thought that the nickname links back to St David, as the ultimate Welshman. The term dates back to the 17th century as a derivative of Dafydd, the Welsh for David. It was also the name given to gingerbread figures depicting a Welsh man riding a goat – traditionally baked on St David’s Day.
St David’s, in Pembrokeshire, is home to the iconic St David’s cathedral, making it Britain’s smallest city. The city has a population of 1,600 and has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries.
The exact date of St David’s birth is unknown, but it is thought that the patron saint of Wales was born around the year 520. St David’s Day has been an official celebration in Wales since the 18th century but has been celebrated for much longer.
David became a monk at a young age and is said to have founded a monastery in around the year 560. It is believed that St David’s Cathedral and St David’s Bishop’s Palace are built on the site of the original monastery.
According to Welsh legends, St David was a miracle maker. He was said to have brought a child back to life by splashing the boy’s face with tears, he restored a blind man’s sight and even moved mountains…
During a sermon, the crowd could not hear his words. A white dove landed on St David and as it did, the ground beneath him rose to form a mighty hill. The gathering crowd could now see and hear him and with that, the dove became St David’s emblem.
St David was one of the earliest vegetarians. He didn’t eat meat and ate only herbs, vegetables and bread.
Enjoy a holiday in Wales this St David’s Day. Browse our selection of holiday cottages in West Wales and embark on a Welsh adventure to remember. Our selection of holiday cottages in St David’s provide the perfect base to explore the home of St David.
Image Credits: Senedd Cymru (CC BY 2.0)
Hi, I'm Katy and I joined Sykes in February 2020.
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