FRIDAY, MARCH 1: Proudly wear a leek and join the Welsh celebration of St. David of Wales. St. David’s Day was voted a public holiday in 2000—so it’s a major event in Welsh culture.
Does this sound like a strange custom? In fact, Shakespeare often is blamed for promoting the association with leeks in his extended discussion of the symbol among characters in the play Henry V (look in Act 5). Shakespeare claimed that leeks were a proud and ancient symbol, worn by warriors in relation to St. David’s Day. Of course, down through history, there have been many other connections of these combined traditions.
Many Welsh pin daffodils and leeks to their lapels to represent both Wales and St. David. Why the daffodil? The words “daffodil” and “leek” have similar names in the Welsh language; daffodil is “Peter’s leek.”
WHO WAS ST. DAVID?
He was a famous, if extremely strict, Christian leader. Rumored to have lived to age 100, St. David founded several churches and monasteries during the 6th century—all the while focused on simplicity. The Monastic Rule of David held monks to such strict guidelines that they partook solely of bread, water, herbs and salt; pulled ploughs through the fields with no assistance from animals; and spent evenings in prayer and reading. (Wikipedia has details.)
David forbid personal possessions and promoted asceticism, until his death on March 1. It’s claimed that when David died, the monastery was “filled with angels as Christ received his soul.” David’s last words emanated through Wales following his death, as he had preached in a final sermon the previous Sunday: “Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. Do ye the little things in life.” Today, David’s words remain a well-known phrase in Wales.
In contrast to many other popular saints, David was canonized quite early in Catholic history: 1120 CE. The patron saint of Wales earned a permanent position in Welsh culture when a poem predicted that at a time in the future when all seems lost, the Welsh people will unite behind the banner of St. David. (Cook up authentic Welsh recipes with help from Wales Online.)
ST. DAVID’S DAY: A ROYAL AFFAIR
Each year, parades abound in Wales for St. David, and the largest of these—held in Cardiff—is attended by either the British Monarch or Prince of Wales. St. David’s Hall hosts a traditional concert with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the BBC National Chorus of Wales, while Swansea—the city that holds St. David’s Cathedral—hosts a St. David’s Week festival with music, sports and cultural events. This year, it’s been reported the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will attend a St. David’s Day service in Cardiff; one day later, Queen Elizabeth will visit Swansea and present leeks to the 3rd Battalion of The Royal Welsh.
Disneyland Paris celebrates yearly with a Welsh-themed week, fireworks, parades and Disney characters dressed in traditional Welsh clothing.