Our guide to St David’s Day
St David’s Day is Wales’ National Saints day celebrated across the country on March 1st every year. But, who is St David? why is he so important in Wales and how does the daffodil fit into it all? Answering all your questions about Wales’ favourite David – here’s our official guide.
Who was St David?
St David was a Welsh Bishop of Mynyw (now St Davids), who lived during the 6th century and was believed to have been born in North Pembrokeshire.
What was he famous for?
It seemed from the start David was destined for greatness, with even the tale of his birth surrounded by mystery. The traditional story claims his mother was a religious woman named Nonita, who gave birth to David on a cliffside, in the middle of a storm. The pain was said to be so great, her fingers left marks in the rocks and the stone “split in sympathy” with her.
A chapel was built to mark the birthplace, called St. Non’s, and you can still visit the ruins of the chapel today, which are just south of St Davids. There are conflicting stories about who St David’s father was, however, it is said there was great interest in the unborn child and signs even before his birth that he would become a great preacher.
Growing up in the area known as Mynyw, St David became revered for his teachings, was said to perform miracles and during his life, founded several monastic settlements and churches. This included a church and monastery on the banks of the River Alun, which became known as Tyddewi, “David’s House”, modern-day St Davids. His original church was burned down by raiding Vikings, with the current cathedral built by the Normans on the same site in the 12th century.
How did he die?
It’s believed St David died of natural causes on March 1st, around 600AD. His remains are enshrined at St Davids Cathedral in the city, with thousands making the pilgrimages to the cathedral over the centuries, even including William the Conqueror.
St David's Day Celebrations
Traditionally known as the “feast day of Saint David”, March 1st has been a day of celebration in Wales since the 12th century and as well as St David as his achievements, it’s a day to honour Wales as a whole.
How do you celebrate?
St David’s day is celebrated with traditional dancing and, of course, singing. Both in Welsh and English there are hymns and verses that are repeated up and down the country on a special day including the National Anthem, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. Welsh flag bunting and other flags including the black and the yellow cross flag of St David are also flown across the country.
The National Costume
In schools, children are encouraged to wear costumes to reflect the Welsh heritage. Traditionally for girls, it’s usually a red and black plaid skirt with a red shawl and black tall hat or bonnet, while boys would wear a flat cap and shorts. This is not the only interpretation, with rugby players, miners, and medieval Welsh Princes filling classrooms across the country on March 1st.
Daffodil or Leak?
The daffodil and Leek are both national symbols of Wales and you’ll see them being displayed, or worn on St David’s Day as a sign of national pride and celebration. The leek is the national emblem of Wales and according to legend was created by St David himself, who ordered Welsh soldiers to wear them on their helmets during battle.
The daffodil is the national flower of Wales and in Welsh is called Cenhinen Bedr meaning St Peter’s leek, which may be why it became associated with the country. It also blooms in abundance across Wales in late February, early March, which could well be why they’ve become associated with Wales and its Saint’s Day.
A Welsh Feast
Cawl, a lamb and vegetable broth, is traditionally served on St. David’s Day alongside bread and cheese. It’s very scrummy, so we recommend trying, even if it’s not March 1st when you visit. And of course, on St David's Day, you must eat as many Welsh cakes as you can! A type of flat scone with raisins, it's one of the most popular tea time treats in the country.
Does Wales get a day off?
Sadly, March 1st isn’t an official bank holiday in Wales, so we do still have to work. But we don’t let that get in the way. Never one to ignore the chance to party, you’ll find schools, workplaces, and communities celebrating anyway, and have a proper Welsh party.
How do you say 'Happy Saint David’s Day' in Welsh?
If you want to wish your friends and family a happy St David’s Day, then try this phrase ‘Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus’, You’ll definitely put a smile on their face!
Wales has a rich and diverse culture that we're proud to be part of. Find out more about our poetic language and the tale behind our stirring national anthem - arguably the best in the world!