St David’s Day has been celebrated for centuries across Wales, with people coming together using various customs to honour the Welsh culture and remember the nation’s patron saint.
St David’s Day is not a public holiday, but in recent times towns have held parades of increasing scale, with major events in Cardiff and Swansea.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the national day…
When is St David’s Day?
The Welsh national day takes place annually on 1 March, reputedly the date of St David’s death, meaning that this year the day of commemoration will fall on Wednesday 1 March.
How do we celebrate St David’s Day?
St David’s Day has been celebrated regularly since he was canonised by Pope Callixtus II in the 12th century, with various customs developing.
These include the wearing of daffodils and leeks – two of the most recognisable symbols of Wales – and eating traditional dishes such as Welsh rarebit.
The day is filled with parades, concerts and eisteddfodau (festivals of music, language and culture), and many children will go to school in traditional dress.
Who was St David?
Like many early Christian saints, verifiable historical facts about David are thin on the ground, with much of his story based on the Buchedd Dewi (Life of David) written by the scholar Rhigyfarch at the end of the 11th century.
He is thought to have been born around 500 AD in Pembrokeshire on the Welsh west coast. David’s reputed mother Non was also a saint, and he was trained as a priest under the tutelage of St Paulinus.
Various miracles are attributed to him, including restoring the sight of his teacher and, most famously, creating an entirely new hill (now the village of Llanddewi Brefi) during an outdoor sermon.
Saint David became a renowned missionary in Wales and beyond, and is credited with founding monasteries in his homeland, the south-west of England (including Glastonbury) and Brittany.
He was named the Archbishop of Wales at the Synod of Brefi church council in 550, but remained in the settlement of Menevia – later named St Davids in his honour – where he had set up a large monastery which is now St David’s Cathedral.
We don’t know exactly when he died, but 1 March became the accepted date, with the year most commonly estimated at 589AD.
His body was buried at St David’s Cathedral, which became a prestigious site of pilgrimage in the middle ages, its stature enhanced by a visit from William Conqueror several years before Rhigyfarch wrote his Life.
Indeed in 1123 Pope Calixtus II decreed that two pilgrimages to St Davids was the equivalent of one to Rome, with three trips to west Wales counting as one to Jerusalem.