Celebrating St David’s Day
On 1st March each year, Wales has a bank holiday to celebrate St David’s Day. This special day, Dydd Gŵyl Dewi in Welsh, is celebrated across Wales, and by Welsh people around the world. We’ve got some handy information to share with your class, including who St David was and his relationship with Wales.
The Life of St David
St David (Dewi Sant in Welsh) lived from approximately 500AD to 589AD and was the Welsh bishop of Mynyw (now St Davids). His mother was Saint Non, who was born in Pembrokeshire, and his paternal grandfather was Ceredig ap Cunedda, King of Ceredigion, a large area of coastal mid-Wales.
St David was renowned as a teacher and preacher, as well as the founder of monasteries and churches in Wales, Dumnonia (now South-West England) and Brittany. St David’s Cathedral is situated in St Davids, the smallest city in the UK and stands on the site of the monastery that he founded in Pembrokeshire.
He is reported to have performed numerous miracles during his lifetime, but the most famous took place when he was preaching to a large crowd at the Synod of Brefi. When people were struggling to hear what St David was saying or see him speak, the ground that he was standing on suddenly rose up to become a small hill, meaning that everyone could see and hear him easily. A white dove also flew down and settled on his shoulder for the duration of the speech. The white dove became his emblem.
As Bishop of Mynyw, St David laid out strict rules for all the monks to live by. They had to pull the plough themselves rather than using animals, could only drink water and only eat bread with salt and herbs, and they had to spend their evenings in prayer, reading or writing. They were allowed no personal possessions either. St David himself lived by these strict rules. St David was canonised by Pope Callixtus II in 1120. His restored shrine was unveiled on St David’s Day in 2012.
Why Are Leeks Associated with St David?
Wales and England were frequently at war during the medieval ages, and the time of St David was no different. Legend has it, that during a battle between the Welsh and the Anglo Saxons in the sixth century, it was difficult to tell the difference between the two sides. St David is said to have had the idea for the Welsh fighters to wear a leek upon their hats to distinguish them from the English. The Welsh won the battle, and they decided that it was because of the leeks. The leek was then adopted as the Welsh emblem.
How is St David’s Day Celebrated?
Saint David’s Day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, the 1st March 589AD. It has been regularly celebrated since his canonization in the 12th century.
Traditional festivities include wearing daffodils and leeks, eating traditional Welsh food including bara brith (fruit loaf), cawl (traditional Welsh soup) and Welsh rarebit (fancy cheese on toast), and women wearing traditional Welsh dress.
An increasing number of cities and towns across Wales including Cardiff, Swansea and Aberystwyth also put on parades throughout the day. The flag of Saint David (a yellow cross on a field of black) often plays a central role in the celebrations and can be seen flying throughout Wales.
St David’s Day Activities
A Monk’s Life
Discuss the strict rules that Saint David imposed on the monks (and himself) that we talked about above. Would your pupils find it easy or hard to live by these rules? What would they miss the most? Why do they think David imposed these rules? Now ask your pupils to imagine they were in charge of a monastery. What rules would they impose?
What makes a nation?
Ask your pupils what they think makes up a country’s identity? Welsh national symbolism includes the leek, daffodils and, of course, the red dragon. Discuss these with your class then ask your pupils to think of their classroom as a new nation on its own. Their job is to build an identity for this nation. Ask your pupils to propose ideas and then vote on the following facets of national identity:
• The country’s name
This gives you a great opportunity to discuss democracy and democratic decision making, as well as national identity.
There are some great St David’s Day craft ideas on the Nuture Store website here. We especially love the Daffodil suncatchers.
St David’s Day Stickers
Did you know that PTS has Seasonal Stickers to help you to celebrate your country’s saint’s day? Check out our Daffodil and Welsh Flag Stickers, which can both be customised with your own choice of text. They are perfect for creating special St David’s Day rewards for your pupils. Order by lunchtime on 26th February to get your stickers in time for St David’s Day 2019.
We also have a range of Welsh Classroom rewards. Take a look here.
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