TUESDAY, MARCH 1: Attention, Vegetarians: You’re in good company today! March 1 is St. David’s Day, a celebration of the patron saint of Wales—and of vegetarians, because of the strict diet he preached to his followers. This Welsh native often is depicted with a dove on his shoulder, traditionally regarded as a sign of God’s grace on his life. Although he lived in the 6th century, when life was notoriously short, David lived to be a remarkably old man—some versions of his life claiming that he became a centenarian. Perhaps his longetivity was due to his diet, very hard work in the fields and quiet prayer. (AmericanCatholic has more.)
After founding various monastic settlements and churches, this simple saint closed the last week of his life with words that are now renowned in Wales: “Be joyful … Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about.” St. David died on March 1, and was buried in a cathedral bearing his name. (Visit Wikipedia’s St. David page, here. Since Orthodox Christians recognize St. David, too, OrthodoxWiki has a page, as well.)
As with many countries that recognize a patron saint, Wales proudly holds a country-wide festival on St. David’s Day. On March 1, Welsh schoolchildren perform in concerts; young girls wear traditional Welsh costumes; the flag of St. David is flown high; and pubs, clubs and other public venues host traditional musicians. (National Museum Wales has details.) In Swansea, Wales, water in the Castle Square Fountain is dyed red, accompanying the 7-day St. David’s Week festival that was inaugurated in 2009. Even the Empire State Building was floodlit in Welsh national colors in 2003! Worldwide, Welsh societies in the homeland and in the Welsh diaspora show their pride and frequently eat cawl, a traditional type of soup. (Check out a cawl recipe here.)
The Cathedral of St. David drew attention as a major pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages, and its popularity remains today. (Sacred Destinations has a full description of the cathedral and its history.) The rural site of St. David’s remains reflects its founder perfectly: St. David sought seclusion throughout his life, and his monastic community lived simply and honestly. The Monastic Rule of David instructed monks to eat only bread and drink only water, refraining from both meat and beer. According to the Bible, humans and animals were vegetarians before Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden; St. David continued and preached the vegetarian lifestyle.
Wales will be in the spotlight once again this Friday, as Wales-native Catherine Zeta-Jones receives a medal from the St. David’s Society of the State of New York for her work promoting her homeland. (WalesOnline has an article.) According to a representative from the University of Wales, “She has done a lot to promote Wales and the Welsh around the world through her work. But she is also an active supporter of charities and other causes.”