March 1 was St. David’s Day. This patron saint of Wales is actually the only Welsh saint we have and he has been that country’s patron since the 12th century.
Very little that can be verified is known about David, not even the year of his birth. The Catholic Encyclopedia accepts his birth date as AD 454, while other sources say it was AD 520.
Whichever date is the correct one, it is fascinating to realize that David lived at the same time as King Arthur (482-562), and, some legends claim David and Arthur were kinsmen. Some even say that David was Arthur’s uncle. This is certainly possible since history tells us that Arthur lived in what is now southern Wales and the Hertfordshire area.
We find the earliest mention of St. David in the Annales Cambriae (10th century). According to this source, he died in his monastery at Mynyw (Menevia) in 601.
David is the most popular male name in Wales and more than 50 Welsh churches are dedicated to him. Variations of David occur in such surnames as Davies (son of David). Davis is the English spelling of Davies. Davidson is the Scottish version. The name David, itself, is of Hebrew origin and means, “dear one; beloved.”
In Welsh, David is spelled Dewi or Dafydd. Probably “Taffy,” the nickname given Welshmen, comes from the way the English pronounce “Dafydd.”
Although there is a red dragon on the Welsh flag, the leek and the daffodil are the country’s official symbols. The leek is even on the cap badge of the Welsh Guard.
Why would an onion-like vegetable become a national symbol? Well, an old legend about St. David says that once, during a battle against marauding Saxons that took place in a field of leeks, David urged the Welsh to attach leeks to their bonnets so they wouldn’t be mistaken for Saxons. They were victorious that day and, ever since, have credited the leek with helping them in their time of need.
In Wales, on St. David’s Day, people wear leeks in their lapels to commemorate that long-ago victory and to honour the saint who led them.
This year’s St. David’s Day celebrations included the opening of a new play, The Wizard, The Goat, and the Man Who Won The War. Showing now at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, this production is about the life of Sir David Lloyd George (1863-1945), prime minister of Britain from 1916 to 1922. A parliamentarian of long-standing, Lloyd George represented Caernarfor Boroughs for 55 years.
Evidently, Welsh housewives served “Cawl” and “Bara Brith” for supper on March 1. Cawl is a stew made with lamb shanks, onions, potatoes, carrots, turnip, leek, and cabbage. Bara Brith is a fruit loaf made with tea.
The Welsh, as always, celebrated St. David’s Day with parades and singing. There’s no surprise there. The Welsh wouldn’t be Welsh if they weren’t singing.
The word Wales evolved from the Old English wealas (foreign).