St. David, Dewi Sant, is the patron saint of the Welsh, and March 1, his feast day, is celebrated as a patriotic and cultural festival by the Welsh in Wales and around the world.
Dewi Sant was a Celtic monk of the sixth century. His mother was Non. The ruins of a small chapel dedicated to her memory may be seen near St. David’s Cathedral. His father was Sant, a son of Ceredig, King of Cardigan. Little is known for certain about Dewi Sant, but he founded several religious centers in Wales and western England, was consecrated archbishop during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and led an ascetic life. An account of his life was written towards the end of the 11th century by Rhygyfarch, a monk at Llanbadarn Fawr near Aberystwyth. Many prophesies were said to have preceded the birth of Dewi Sant, and many miracles were attributed to him. One miracle often recounted is that once when Dewi was preaching to a crowd at Llandewi Brefi those on the outer edges could not hear, so he spread a handkerchief on the ground, and stood on it to preach, whereupon the ground swelled up beneath him, and all could hear. A short account of Dewi Sant has been given by Nona Rees in St. David of Dewisland.
March 1, the date given by Rhygyfarch for the death of Dewi Sant, was celebrated as a religious festival up until the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. In the 18th century it became a national festival among the Welsh, and continues as such to this day. The celebration usually entails singing and eating, which may mean a meal followed by singing, or much singing followed by a Te Bach, tea with teisen bach and bara brith. Y Ddraig Goch, the Red Dragon, is flown as a flag or worn as a pin or pendant, and leeks are worn, and sometimes eaten. In schools in Wales the boys take leeks to school, status being given to those who bring the biggest leeks, and eat them earliest in the day.
The heraldic emblem of Wales is Y Ddraig Goch, the Red Dragon. The emblem of Wales is the leek, arising from an occasion when a troop of Welsh were able to distinguish each other from a troop of English enemy dressed in similar fashion by wearing leeks. An alternative emblem developed in recent years is the daffodil, used and preferred over the leek by the English government as it lacks the overtones of patriotic defiance associated with the leek.
St. David’s Day meetings are not boisterous celebrations of democracy and freedom in Wales, but rather the subdued remembrance allowed a captive nation under colonial rule.
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