Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus—Happy St David’s Day!
Those of us who grew up in Wales will know how important St David’s Day is—for many, it meant a half-day at school as well as an opportunity to get together to eat delicious food and celebrate the Welsh culture and heritage.
St David’s Day is a time to celebrate the Welsh patron saint; born around the year 500 BC, St David was a monk who founded a monastery in the city that is now known as St Davids.
In his lifetime, St David made several pilgrimages, became a bishop and performed miracles; most notably, he raised the ground on which he stood so that those at the back of the crowd he was preaching to could hear him.
For those of us who didn’t grow up in Wales, here’s a guide on 5 things to do to celebrate St David’s Day:
Make Some Traditional Welsh Food
Bara Brith, Glamorgan Sausages, Welsh cakes, Cawl; there are plenty of delicious, traditional Welsh foods you could make today, but a personal favourite of ours is Welsh Rarebit.
Welsh Rarebit, or Welsh Rabbit as it was first called, is a kind of Welsh cheese on toast; a cheese sauce is made with mustard and ale or stout, and poured over toasted bread. There have been many variations throughout the years including adding tomatoes, bacon, laverbread or spices like cayenne or paprika.
The dish has been popular with working-class families in Wales for centuries, and it’s been said that it was jokingly referred to as ‘Welsh Rabbit’ as these families couldn’t afford to eat rabbit. As the dish became more popular near the end of the 18th century, people moved away from calling it by its original name and began calling it ‘Rarebit’, which, as a word, doesn’t exist outside of this context.
The Welsh Rarebit is really easy and rewarding to make—if you want to try to make your own, we’ve found a great recipe including laverbread, another Welsh delicacy, as well as a vegan version you can try.
Visit St Davids Cathedral
For St David’s day, why not go and visit the site our patron saint made his monastery back in the 6th century?
St Davids is the UK’s smallest city, awarded this status thanks to its 12th-century cathedral, St Davids Cathedral. With a population of around 2000, it’s the religious centre of Wales and is where St David is buried.
Have a look around at the bell tower and the library or pop in to see the Cathedral exhibition, outlining the Cathedral’s history and the life of St David, before paying homage at St David’s shrine.
Every year the Cathedral holds a number of events to celebrate our patron saint’s day, so make sure to check out the calendar.
Go to a Parade
As with everything, parades are one of the most fun, exciting ways to get fully immersed in celebrations.
Many Welsh towns and cities are holding parades and events before, on and after St David’s Day itself, so you’ve got plenty of opportunity to get involved and witness the patriotism firsthand.
The official National St David’s Day parade is held in Cardiff, but have a look to see if you’re near any parade routes.
Go Buy a Welsh Cake
A Welsh Cake (‘pice ar y maen’ in Welsh) is a traditional type of sweet bread that has been popular in Wales since the late 19th century. Traditionally cooked on a bakestone, which is a type of cast-iron griddle, these small cakes are made with flour, eggs, milk, butter/lard, spices and currants.
Although it is common to eat these on St David’s Day, Welsh cakes are popular year-round and are often gifted or bought as souvenirs of Wales. Why not support your local Welsh business and go buy some Welsh cakes, or try your hand at making this spin on the classic recipe by Anna Jones?
Wear a Daffodil or a Leek
Besides wearing a full, traditional Welsh costume, one of the ways you can show your patriotism on St David’s Day is by donning a daffodil, one of Wales’ national symbols, or a leek, one of St David’s symbols.
A popular legend says this tradition started in the 6th century in a battle against the Saxons, when St David himself advised Welsh soldiers to wear leeks in their helmets to distinguish them from their enemies. This helped them to win the battle and the leek was therefore adopted as a symbol of Wales.
As the Welsh for daffodil translates to ‘Peter’s Leek’ (Cenhinen Pedr), it is thought that the characteristically similar daffodil was chosen in the 18th century as a sweeter-smelling alternative to celebrate St David’s Day.
If you don’t want to put a real leek in your lapel, we understand; why not craft a leek or daffodil out of paper or felt, or go and buy a badge to use again next year?
We hope you found this guide helpful. We thought it would be interesting to ask our non-Welsh colleagues Nick, Angie and Katrina what their favourite things about Wales are, and this is what they had to say:
What’s your all-time favourite Welsh food?
Nick: Laverbread fried with oats to make oatcakes as part of a breakfast.
Angie: I love Welsh Rarebit with Applewood vegan smoky cheese, yum.
Katrina: Welsh cakes!
What’s your favourite thing about living in Wales?
Nick: The landscape. Rolling mountains, amazing beaches, waterfalls. You name it and Wales has it.
Angie: The people are so friendly and welcoming. There’s a real sense of community here.
Katrina: The Gower in Swansea, it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth.
What’s your favourite St David’s Day tradition?
Nick: Consuming vast quantities of welsh cakes and going for a beer down my local rugby club in the evening.
Angie: I love all of the daffodils everywhere, they make me so happy!
Katrina: All of the cute kids in their traditional costumes.
So now, we’ll leave you with this quote which is said to be St David’s last words to his followers before his death; "Be joyful, keep the faith and do the little things that you have heard and seen me do."
“Gwenwch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd”, which means 'do the little things in life', is still a well-known phrase in Wales. We love this phrase and it ties in really nicely with our purpose and practice; we care about every little thing, and we know it’s “the little things” that make a big difference.
We hope you have a great St David’s Day!