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St David’s Day in Wales 1st of March.
A Celebration in Wales
Saint David’s Day, or in Welsh (Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant) has played a part in Welsh culture for hundreds of years. Legend says that he lived somewhere in the region of between 469 and 569, with many traditions claiming that he died in 569 with this day falling on the 1st March. However, it took several hundred years to pass before it was actually declared to be a day to celebrate, it was the 18th Century by the time it was deemed a day of importance.
It is believed, that his birth was towards the end of the 5th Century to the beginning of the 6th Century, but in saying this there are some discrepancies and uncertainties to the actual date. Believed to be a “Scion” of the Royal House of Ceredigion, it is said he founded a “Celtic Monastic Community” at The Vale of Roses in Welsh (Glyn Rhosyn). Situated on the Western Headland of Pembrokeshire, in Welsh (Sir Benfro) this is where the St David’s Cathedral stands today. As a teacher and “Ascetic” he became famous, even his foundation “The Vale of Roses” became an important “Christian Shrine”, and an important centre in Wales. His death on the 1st March was recorded yet the year is still uncertain up to this day.
At the height of Welsh resistance to the Normans St David became recognised as the “National Patron Saint of Wales”. From the middle ages “Welsh Diaspora” celebrated St David’s Day. It was diarist Samuel Pepys in the 17th Century that made a note of how the celebrations took different guises in various locations, in not only Wales, but England too. It is not seen as a National Holiday in the UK, in Wales, although celebrated it is not a “Bank Holiday”. Although some local authorities in Wales have taken it upon themselves to close on the 1st March and take it as a holiday. Even far afield such as USA and Australia there are Welsh communities celebrating the 1st March with Dinners, Parties and Parades.
There are many tales and prophesies of how the Welsh developed as a Nation, in the mid tenth century a Poem “Armes Prydain” was composed telling how the Welsh People unite to join in alliance with fellow-celts to defeat the Anglo Saxons, all this was done under the “St David’s” banner. It was Henry VII of England who was partly Welsh that became King of England after his victory at the “Battle of Bosworth Field”. With the banner held in this victory being green and white with a red dragon. It took 474 years for the Welsh to adapt the flag and make it the new flag of Wales. It was 1485 when Henry VII became King, and it took until 1959 for the flag to be adapted into the Welsh flag we see today. During the Tudor period the Royal Coat of Arms included the Welsh Dragon, symbolising a reference to the King’s origins.
A Welsh Heritage
Today there are celebrations all over Wales commemorating St David’s Day, with the largest parade held in Cardiff. Today 1st March 2013 the parade in Cardiff was attended by HRH Prince Charles and his wife The Duchess of Cornwall. The parade in Cardiff is a mixture of folklore and military tattoo, and goes through the City centre, Welsh entertainers perform from Bandstands in the evening at Cardiff Central Library, here usually the food and entertainment is free. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the BBC National Chorus of Wales and youth choruses stage traditional St David’s concerts in the evening of the 1st March. Although still small in number public celebrations take place all over Wales, and in the last few years they have become more commonplace, with pubs, clubs and Restaurants now hold small celebrations, and parades take place through many town centres.
Colwyn Bay in North Wales is a fine example, in the last few years a parade takes place through the town centre with hundreds of people and schoolchildren participating with various events centred around the parade. Staying in North Wales Prestatyn is another example, it closes the high street so as schools and citizens alike take part in singing, poetry inter-twining with fundraising, quite a spectacle. Swansea in South Wales was the first City to hold a St David’s festival for a week back in 2009, with events ranging from sporting and cultural to musical, these are held throughout the City to mark St David’s Day, and the City has kept up the celebration to this day. St David’s day celebrations have gone international, a Welsh themed week with fireworks, parades and Disney characters dressed in traditional Welsh attire in Disneyland Paris. Even as far away as Los Angeles a St David’s day festival takes place a National day of Wales being the largest annual event in the USA. Even Google have designed their homepage with a red Dragon breathing yellow flames to spell their name, so we as Welsh people should be proud of the fact that a company as big as Google celebrates our Patron Saint.
As far as recent tradition goes Schools in Wales have always celebrated St David’s day with various activities ranging from singing to recitation, to wearing red clothing and wearing a yellow daffodil, the traditional flower of Saint David(Dewi Sant). Even the Eisteddfod which is a welsh festival of song, dance and musicals have its basic origins from Saint David with the tradition still going today, with various Eisteddfod’s taking place in Wales. With one being the International Eisteddfod in Llangollen where participants come from all over the world to compete, coming from Asia, Australia to Russia, South America to North America a truly staggering event well worth a visit. St David’s day a celebration of our Patron Saint, sometimes it feels that we as a nation should be doing more to honour Saint David(Dewi Sant), after all he is the only Patron Saint we have, and maybe, the only one we will ever have. So why not make a fuss about him, at the end of the day it is only for one day every year the 1st of March, a day for Wales to get its name heard.