The Legend and History of St David’s Day: 1st March
March is a special month that sees the days gradually getting longer and then on 20th March we enter spring, a cause for celebration all over the country, but for anyone in Wales, March the 1st is a time to celebrate for this is St. Davids Day. St David (or ‘Dewi Sant’ in Welsh) was born on the south west coast of Wales and went on to found a monastery not far from his birth place where St David’s stands today. He lived a simple monastic life and many legends of his miracle working exist including bringing a dead boy back to life by splashing the child’s face with tears, and restoring a blind man’s sight.
Indeed there are many myths and legends about the patron Saint of Wales and this not surprising when you consider that he died in 589 AD and has been the patron saint of Wales since the 12th century. In Wales children are raised on various tales and one of the favourite stories details how the sounds of heavy swords clashed in battle as the men of Wales fought fearlessly to protect their land from the Saxon invaders. Despite their valiant efforts the Welsh were slowly being defeated and in the midst of this bloody battle it was becoming difficult to tell friend from foe. A monk observed that the Welsh could not recognise their own men from those of the invading enemy and cried out to them, “Welshmen, you must mark yourselves so that you can better tell who is Saxon and who is Welsh” with these words he plucked a leek from the ground and said, “Here, wear these so you will know that any soldier who does not have a leek is your enemy”. In an instant every Welsh soldier was wearing a leek on his helmet. Now they could distinguish between enemy and comrade and before long, the Welsh had won the battle. The wise monk was David and after his death on 1st March 589 AD he was made the Patron Saint of Wales.
The leek remains the national flower of Wales and on St David’s Feast day the people of Wales proudly wear a leek pinned to their lapel or sometimes a daffodil, although the dove is the symbol of St. David. Often he is depicted with a dove as a result of his most notorious miracle which took place in a village of Llanddewi Brefi. Legend has it that he was preaching to a large crowd and some people had difficulty seeing and hearing him. Suddenly a white dove landed on David’s shoulder and the ground on which he stood rose up to form a hill, making him visible and audible to all.
Whatever the truth behind the legends are, St David’s Day celebrations will be in full swing across Wales on 1st March when the stories are re-told with great revelry, whilst leeks and daffodils are worn with patriotic glee.