Saint David's Day: The National Holiday Of Wales
Did you know that March 1st is the national holiday of Wales? Known as Saint David's Day, this celebration is marked by large colorful parades, especially in Cardiff. We suggest you discover the history and traditions of this day dear to the heart of the Welsh.
What is the history of the patron saint of Wales?
St. David's Day, known as Saint David's Day in English or Dydd Gwyl Dewi in Welsh, has been the national holiday of Wales since the 18th century. It commemorates the date of the death of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, who is said to have lived between 500 and 589.
Saint David was a monk who founded a monastery in the smallest town in Britain: St David's in Pembrokeshire, 160 km from Cardiff. Not much is known about his life, which is surrounded by legends, but it is reported that this monk was one of the first to preach the word of Christ to the pagan Celtic tribes in western Britain.
Today, March 1st is not a public holiday in the United Kingdom. But this important date in the eyes of the Welsh is celebrated with pomp, by many parades in the streets, decorated for the occasion in the traditional colors of red, white and green (the colors of the Welsh flag).
And of course, even though this festival is held at the beginning of March, it should not be confused with St. Patrick's Day (the Irish national holiday that takes place on March 17)!
What are the festivities for the national holiday?
On March 1 , parades are held all over Wales and the biggest one is of course held in Cardiff which is the capital. You can attend a colorful parade with giant dragons, music and comedians.
On this occasion, the Welsh capital also hosts various events such as concerts, performances and traditional dances to the rhythm of Celtic music and traditional songs. In 2010, a local food festival was even organized for the occasion: the Really Welch Food Festival!
Saint David's Day is in any case an excellent opportunity to discover the different facets of Welsh culture, especially since many castles and monuments open their doors for free to visitors on this day! This is for example the case of Beaumaris Castle in Anglesey in the north of the country. To learn more about the free sites for the national holiday, we invite you to visit the official website of Cadw, the organization in charge of preserving the historic monuments of Wales (link below).
Each year, the traditional St. David's Day Concert by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales closes the festivities on the evening of March 1 at Saint David's Hall, a Cardiff venue.
What are the Welsh symbols to wear on this day?
A day of celebration, March 1 is also an opportunity to display the national symbols of Wales. On the national holiday, most people wear symbols such as the leek and daffodil or drape themselves in the flag of St. David, which is not the same as the flag of Wales!
While the Welsh national flag represents a red dragon on a white and green background, the flag of St. David is a simple yellow cross on a black background. The yellow and black colors are indeed those of the diocese of Saint David's...
If you wonder about the origin of these Welsh symbols, you should know that the daffodil is the flower of Wales because it blooms in spring and its flowering period coincides precisely with the feast of Saint David.
Despite its beauty, the pretty yellow flower has not replaced another more humble Welsh symbol: the leek! According to the play Henry V, this humble vegetable was already an emblem of Wales in Shakespeare's time! There is also historical evidence that the Tudor dynasty distributed leeks to their guards on March 1st in honor of the patron saint of Wales...
The origin of this amazing national symbol is not precisely known, but a legend tells that the king of Gwynedd, Cadwaladr, would have ordered his soldiers to equip themselves with a leek before going into battle to distinguish themselves from the enemy.