Daffodils and leeks mark St David’s Day

The daffodil, the dragon and leeks are symbols associated with the patron saint of Wales.

In Ireland we celebrate the beginning of spring in February with the Feast of St Brigid and her cross weaved from rushes. Next week, the people of Wales will celebrate the beginning of spring on St David’s Day.

The daffodil, the dragon and leeks are symbols associated with the patron saint of Wales. While the daffodil may be a more commonly recognised symbol of St David or Dewi Saint as he is known, it is newer than the leek which is the original national emblem. It came to be because of confusion between two Welsh phrases: Cenhinen is Welsh for leek and cenhinen pedr is Welsh for daffodil. It was due to this confusion that the daffodil eventually became the recognised symbol of Wales.

The leek may seem like an unusual emblem to have but according to legend, St David advised the Britons on the eve of a battle with the Saxons, to wear leeks in their caps to help them recognise their enemies from their friends. This is said to have contributed to a great victory. Today Welsh people around the world still wear leeks on St David's Day.

Next week on March 1, celebrate St David’s Day and take the time to learn about Welsh culture. Although it is not a national holiday, his feast day is celebrated as much as we celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Festivals and concerts are held and a huge parade is thrown, not dissimilar to our own St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

However, little is known about the patron saint of Wales. According to his biographer, Rhigyfarch, he was a Celtic monk, abbot and bishop, who lived in the 6th Century. During his life, he was one of many early saints who helped to spread Christianity among the pagan Celtic tribes of western Britain. He later became the Archbishop of Wales. On his missionary journeys through Wales, he established several churches. He also travelled to the south and west of England and he is also claimed to have visited Ireland!

His feast day came to be in 1120 when he was canonised by Pope Callactus II. From then on, March 1 was included in the Church calendar. When St David died he told his followers to "Be cheerful and keep your faith and belief, and do the little things that you have heard and seen through me."