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St. David's Day: Uncovering the legend

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Uncovering the Legend of Saint David

Wales' Patron Saint Who Moved Mountains

While his name and designated holiday might be lesser known across the globe than St. Valentine or St. Patrick, there’s a rightful celebration for Wales’ patron saint, too. Every year on March 1, Welsh people sport their leeks and daffodils in honor of Dewi Sant (in Welsh), better known as Saint David.

The Early Years

It’s uncertain what year Saint David was born but it is estimated that it was between 462 and 515 AD. While many facts of his life are unknown or heavily embellished, his biographer Rhigyfarch accounts for much of what we know of the saint’s early years.

• Angels foretold of David’s birth to St. Patrick 30 years before he was born.

• David’s mother, Saint Non, gave birth atop a cliff during a violent storm. Her labor was so intense that her fingers left marks in the rocks she grasped on to.

The Man, The Legend

Early on, David sought a religious life. He was educated at a monastery for 10 years before roaming Britain to convert pagans to Christianity and performing a miracle or two along the way.

• David and his fellow monks lived a simple life, only speaking during prayer or emergencies. They ate only bread and vegetables, washing them down with milk or water. David drank only water.

• As an ordained priest, David is believed to have founded 12 monasteries in southern Wales. Two pilgrimages to the UK’s smallest city, St. David’s, is equal to one pilgrimage to the Vatican in Rome.

• Saint David’s most famous story took place as he spoke to a large crowd at the synod of Llandewi Brefi. Legend has it that when the crowd complained they could not hear him, the ground beneath David’s feet rose until he was standing on a large hill where he could be seen and heard by all.

Celebrations Then and Now

Party On, Wales

• On the day of David’ death on March 1, 589, the Welsh mark the day with parades, food festivals, street parties, and concerts. The national day of celebration, however, wasn’t recognized in Wales until the 18th Century.

Springing A Leek

• Before a battle with the Saxons, St. David told the Britons to wear leeks in their caps to help identify friend from foe, resulting in a great victory. Today, people mark the day by wearing a leek or daffodil.

Eat Up

• To include leeks in their celebrations, many people cook with leeks on March 1. One popular Welsh stew, named Cawl, is made of lamb and leeks.

To celebrate Saint David, be sure to sport your leek and chant “Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus!” (Welsh for “Happy Saint David’s Day!”)

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