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Who was St David and how is St David’s Day celebrated?

1st Mar 2021
By sarah-jane grainger |
Flags |

Wales, a country of rich culture and beautiful landscapes, synonymous with daffodils, the welsh dragon, flag and leeks.

St David’s Day offers the rest of the UK and the Welsh people the opportunity to celebrate Welsh traditions and the life of the patron saint of Wales, St David. We thought, we’d share some facts about this interesting historic Welsh figure.

Who was Saint David?

Saint David was a Welsh bishop in Mynyw (now known as St David’s, Pembrokeshire, Wales) in the year 500AD. Known as a renowned preacher, he devoted his life to spreading the word of Christianity. He made many pilgrimages across Wales, Cornwall, Brittany, Ireland and Jerusalem, founding around 12 monasteries during his life.

It is said that on one occasion, St David retrieved a stone from one of his pilgrimages to Jerusalem which now sits in an altar at St David’s Cathedral, built on the site of his original monastery.

His monastic life meant that he lived a very meagre and austere life, choosing to dedicate his life to God. Apparently he consumed only leeks and water, a rather bland diet, even by 6th Century standards! Could this be why the leek is a national symbol of Wales? St David offered guidance to Welsh Warriors battling the Saxons, advising them to wear a leek during the battle so that they can distinguish between allies and enemies. The Welsh won the battle, so the theory that this is how and why the leek became the national symbol is also quite plausible. Whatever the origins and reasons, the leek makes for a unique and quirky national symbol.

St David the miracle worker

Many have said that he performed many miracles during his life. The most notable being the raising of the ground at the Synod of Brefi, where it is said the ground beneath  him literally rose up, so that the crowd he was preaching to could better hear his sermon. Many images of St David depict him on that hill with a white dove placed on or near him. The dove represents the Holy Spirit which was always present within him and gifted the bishop with his powerful preaching.

St David has been known as the patron saint of Wales since the twelth century when he was canonised by Pope Callixtus in 1120.

There are many more fascinating facts on him, so we’ve listed some useful links if you want to learn more.

Visit Wales: https://www.visitwales.com/info/history-heritage-and-traditions/st-david-five-facts

Historic UK: https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofWales/St-David-Patron-Saint-of-Wales/

BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-51649367

A celebration of Welsh tradition

The feast day takes place on the 1st March every year and is marked with a wide range of activities to celebrate Welsh culture. Including, the donning of traditional Welsh dress, folk dancing and parades. The display of leeks and the national flower the daffodil is also a must do tradition on this day. So is the baking of Welsh dishes such as Welsh rarebit and Welsh cakes.

Quirky fact! Did you know that the British army traditionally eats raw leeks on March 1 to mark the feast and in 2017? Also, the Queen gifted leeks to the soldiers of The Royal Welsh to mark the feast day at Lucknow Barracks, as well as to one of the Regimental Goats of the Royal Welsh? Yes, that’s right regimental goats!

As you’d also expect, flags are a plenty  during these national celebrations and although the Welsh Red Dragon (Y Ddraig Goch) is a popular choice, so is the flag of Saint David.

To anyone celebrating St David’s Day this year…

“Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus” may your flags fly high with pride and your daffodils be glorious.





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