Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus!

St. David's Flag

Happy St. David’s Day! St. David’s Day is a national holiday in Wales dedicated to celebrating the life of St. David (Dewi Sant) and Welsh culture. Unlike St. Andrew’s Day in Scotland and St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, St. David’s Day is not yet recognized as a bank holiday, which is the equivalent of a federal holiday in the U.S.

Nevertheless, the vast majority of Welsh citizens support making it a bank holiday and throw parties, parades, and poetry readings. The parade in Wales’ capital, Cardiff, is often visited by the British monarch or Prince of Wales. This year Prince Charles did indeed attend–albeit a day early– and was a hit with the locals, Prince Charles visits ahead of St David’s Day celebrations.

St. David, the patron saint of Wales, died on March 1st, around 589. His father Sant was the son of the prince of Ceredigion, Ceredig. His mother Non was a chieftain’s daughter and said to be the niece of King Arthur. David was among those responsible for the spread of Christianity in Wales and beyond. He reportedly spent time in Ireland and England, and also made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem where he was made an archbishop.

David, a tall, brawny ascetic and vegetarian who supposedly lived to be 100, was called The Waterman or Dewi Ddyfrwr, David the Water Drinker. He abstained from alcohol completely and drank water only– making it ironic that many raise their glasses in his honor. David had a strict work ethic, rising early and laboring long hours to keep his fellow monks and neighbors fed and clothed. He was also deeply devoted to his studies.


On St. David’s Day, you’ll see people wearing leeks (cenhinen) and daffodils (cenhinen pedr, Peter’s leek), as well as traditional Welsh costumes. The leek is a national symbol closely associated with David. He advised the Britons to wear a leek in their caps during a battle with the Saxons so they could distinguish friend from foe.

The flag of St. David, above, is waved proudly on March 1st, as well as the official Welsh flag below. Y Ddraig Goch, The Red Dragon, is one of the oldest national flags in the world and held to be the personal standard of King Arthur. The flag is likely older than that, dating back to the Roman occupation of Britain.


Just before he died, Dewi Sant told his people gwnewch y pethau bychain— do the little things. Through his daily tasks and commitment to those “little things,” he was able to accomplish great things and influence a nation. His efforts helped preserve the Welsh language (which is ancient) and culture. He was officially recognized by the Catholic church in 1120, and by the 1700s, March 1st had become a national holiday in his home country. 

For more information, see Wales.com’s St David’s Day site. Like St. Andrew’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day, St. David’s Day is celebrated all over the world including in Seattle. The nearby town of Black Diamond, Washington also celebrates its Welsh founders during early June and in its local museum. Many Welsh immigrants in our area were coal miners beginning in the 1800s. Some moved away after World War I as coal’s use declined, but there’s still an active Welsh presence here. The Welsh love to sing, particularly in four part harmony, and in north Seattle there’s an annual Gymanfa Ganu at which old hymns (among other tunes) are sung beautifully in the mother tongue.


About two million people in America are of Welsh descent, which is significant given that the entire population of Wales is three million. Just one in five Welsh citizens speaks the native language, though, so holidays like St. David’s are important in keeping the Welsh fires burning. Find someone Welsh today and wish them a Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus!

Click here to hear how Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant is pronounced.


After Zorro, people spoke Spanish to me for ages. I’m Welsh but that movie instantly gave me a new ethnicity. -Catherine Zeta-Jones


©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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