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1 March 2011

Cymru am Byth (Wales For Ever) HAPPY ST DAVID'S DAY

As always on March the First, I'm missing my homeland. I have my Welsh flag flying madly in the the high wind, and am wearing a daffodil and the leek brooch given me years ago by my Aunt. This year the first daffodils are also bravely showing their golden faces.(Sometimes they don't manage to bloom before the 1st March at all.)
Ok, for those of you who are not Welsh (and I suspect the majority of people reading this blog fall into that category,) I'll tell you why March 1st is such a special day to those of us born in Wales.

St David's Day (Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant) is the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales.The date of 1 March was chosen in remembrance of the death of Saint David on that day (a Tuesday) in 589, and has been celebrated by followers since then.
The date was declared a national day of celebration within Wales in the 18th century.

Although the Welsh Assembly was not successful in having March 1st declared a National Bank Holiday, there are still celebrations all over the Principality, with special chapel services, lunches of Cawl (a clear lamb soup with leaks and potatoes, with cheese and bread) and Eisteddfordau,  concerts of singing and recitation, held in many schools and village halls.

The Red dragon shown over the map of Wales in green
The Flag of Wales (Welsh: Baner Cymru or Y Ddraig Goch, meaning "The Red Dragon") incorporates the Red Dragon of Cadwaladr, King of Gwynedd, from c.655 to 682, along with the Tudor colours of green and white. It was used by Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 after which it was carried in state to St Paul's Cathedral.* The red dragon was then included in the Tudor royal arms to signify their Welsh descent.

The flag was granted official status in 1959, but the red dragon itself has been associated with Wales for centuries; indeed, the flag is sometimes claimed to be the oldest national flag still in use, though the origin of the adoption of the dragon symbol is now lost in history and myth. A plausible theory is that the Romans brought the emblem to what is now Wales during their occupation of Britain in the form of the Draco standards borne by the Roman cavalry, but it could be even older. The green and white stripes of the flag were additions by the House of Tudor, the Welsh dynasty that held the English throne from 1485 to 1603. Green and white are also the colours of the leek, another national emblem of Wales.

Wales and Bhutan are at present the only countries to have a dragon on their flag, though the Chinese flag also featured a dragon during the Qing Dynasty

The oldest known use of the dragon to represent Wales is from the Historia Brittonum, written around 830; the text describes a struggle between two serpents deep underground, which prevents King Vortigern from building a stronghold. This story was later adapted into a prophecy made by the wizard Myrddin (or Merlin) of a long fight between a red dragon and a white dragon. According to the prophecy, the white dragon, representing the Saxons, would at first dominate but eventually the red dragon, symbolising the Celts, would be victorious and recapture Lloegr. This is believed to represent the conflict in the 5th and 6th centuries between the British Celts and the invading Saxons. A version of the tale also appears as part of the poem 'Cyfranc Lludd a Llefelys' in the Mabinogion. One twelfth century account of this is Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, where he states Merlin's prophecies.

The red dragon is popularly believed to have been the battle standard of Arthur and other ancient Celtic/Romano-British leaders. It is particularly associated in Welsh poetry with Cadwaladr king of Gwynedd from c.655 to 682.

In 1400 Owain Glyndwr raised the dragon standard during his revolts against the occupation of Wales by the English crown. Fifteen years later the English crown, under the rule of Henry V, used the red dragon standard itself during the Battle of Agincourt. The English forces during the battle utilised Welsh longbowmen, along with their own archers. In 1485, the most significant link between the symbol of the Red Dragon and Wales occurred when Henry Tudor flew the red dragon of Cadwallader during his invasion of England. Henry was of Welsh descent and after leaving France with an army of 2000, landed at Milford Haven on 7 August. He made capital of his Welsh ancestry in gathering support and gaining safe passage through Wales. Henry met and fought Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, and in victory took the English throne.*

The oldest recorded use of the dragon to symbolise Wales is from the Historia Brittonum, written around 830, but it is popularly supposed to have been the battle standard of Arthur and other ancient Celtic leaders.

The Welsh Flag is the only flag of the constituent countries of the UK not to be used in the Union Flag. Wales had no explicit recognition in the flag because Wales had been annexed by Edward I of England in 1282 and, since the Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542, was considered to be a part of the Kingdom of England. There have since been proposals to include the Dragon or the flag of Saint David (itself a cross) on the Union Flag, but these have never met with much support.

Daffodil - Welsh emblem
The leek and the daffodil are both emblems of Wales and they share the Welsh name Ceninenis.

The leek is known to have been displayed as a Welsh emblem in 1536 and in Henry V, Shakespeare acknowledged this as an ancient custom.

There is a nuance - no more than that - for girls to wear daffodils and boys to wear leeks on St David's Day. There is a link between the leek and the daffodil. In Welsh the daffodil is St Peter's leek Cenhinen Bedr.

According to legend, Saint David ordered his Welsh soldiers to identify themselves by wearing the leek on their helmets during an ancient battle against the Saxons, which took place in a field of leeks. The leek also appears on the back of the  pound coin in Wales.

So that's why I'm proudly wearing both my daffodil and a leek today!