The 1st March is an exciting date in the Welsh calendar, as it marks a day of celebration for the patron Saint of Wales, St David.
St David was a bishop who lived in the 6th century. He founded many religious centres across Britain and Wales, before making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem which resulted in him becoming an Archbishop. St David was also a worker of miracles, one of the most fantastic being when he made the earth move so that the crowd which had gathered around him could see and hear his preaching.
This is a day of great national pride for the Welsh people, and is celebrated every year with extravagant parades, fairs, and free entry to some of the country's most fantastic national heritage sites.
This year, we have decided to observe St David's Day in our own way; by celebrating the tree’s and plants that are important or symbolic to the Welsh people.
The legend that has made the Leek a national emblem of Wales involves St David himself, making the Leek the oldest standing symbolic plant of Wales.
The story goes that St David was leading his troops into a battle against invading Saxons, which was eventually joined in the middle of a field of leeks. Thus St David ordered his soldiers to distinguish themselves from the enemy by attaching a leek to their helmets.
Why not celebrate St David's day by incorporating leeks into your lunch or dinner? These diverse winter veggies taste great in soups, gratins and delicate tarts.
The daffodil, also known as Peter's Leek, is the National flower of Wales, and has been considered an emblem of the country since the 19th Century. Exactly how these little yellow flowers came to be such powerful symbols of national pride is not known with any certainty; if you ask three Welsh people, they will most likely give you three different answers! Some of the most plausible theories are:
In Welsh, the words for Leek (Cenhinen) and Daffodil (Cenhinen Pedr) are very similar. Over the years, the two became inextricably linked until the Daffodil was just as important as the leek.
St David's Day is at the beginning of Spring, which also correlates with when daffodils are really coming into bloom. They naturally became associated with this important Welsh feast day, thus became a symbol of Wales
Whether you are celebrating St David's or just want to bring a little bit of sunshine into your garden, you really can't go wrong planting a few of these cheery bright blooms!
You may not associate the Yew tree with Wales instantly, as you would the Daffodil or the Leek, and you are unlikely to find Yew saplings used as St David’s day decorations. However, one Yew tree in particular does hold an important place in the history of Wales.
The Yew tree that I am referring to is located in an old churchyard, in a sleepy village called Defynnog, and is thought to be the oldest tree in Britain, possibly even Europe. This incredible Yew tree is around 5000 years old. This may sound fantastically unrealistic, but Yew trees are truly amazing organisms, with an ability to regenerate and recover that most other tree species do not possess.
The Yew tree at St Cynon's churchyard is one of the oldest living organisms in the world, and has stood witness to a large part of human history in Wales. Pretty important I would say!
To all of our Welsh brethren, happy St David’s day!
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/tweng/1423306074" title="Field of Leeks by My name's axel, on Flickr"><img src="https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0025/4309/1770/files/1423306074_c6b19d7ae6_s.jpg" width="75" height="75" alt="Field of Leeks"></a>
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/14338660617" title="Daffodils and sky by Tambako The Jaguar, on Flickr"><img src="https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0025/4309/1770/files/14338660617_24c5bdcfa2_s.jpg" width="75" height="75" alt="Daffodils and sky"></a>
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/48979616" title="yew berries by liz west, on Flickr"><img src="https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0025/4309/1770/files/48979616_4679eebad4_s.jpg" width="75" height="75" alt="yew berries"></a>