Saint David’s Day
This Sunday is Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant – St David’s Day. St David is the Patron Saint of Wales and is celebrated on 1 March.
But first, why not tuck into one of Wales’ most famous exports!
Welsh rarebit recipe
St David’s Day wouldn’t be the same without THE most decadent cheese on toast in the world (opinions are my own!!).
Ever wondered what went into a Welsh Rarebit? Now a mainstay on Hipster brunch menu’s in modern Britain the dish has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the Welsh Valleys.
Hundreds of years ago farm workers would have dropped a lump of cheese into a mixture of egg and milk and baked until the eggs had cooked and the cheese melted. Sounds pretty decent!
A well-known traveller, like it’s Celtic cousins Scottish Haggis and Irish Stew, it is made the world over – even the French call this “Le Welsh”.
Here is a basic traditional recipe for Welsh Rarebit – Iechyd da!
225g grated, strong cheese – Cheddar or Cheshire works great
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 level teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons flour
Shake of pepper
4 tablespoons beer, Guiness or milk (Guiness gives a stronger flavour)
4 slices bread toasted on 1 side only
Put the cheese, butter, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, flour and pepper into a saucepan.
Mix well and then add the beer, Guinness or milk to moisten. Do not make it too wet!!
Stir over a gentle heat until all is melted, and when it is a relatively thick paste, stop stirring, and swivel it around the saucepan, which it will do quite easily.
Leave to cool a little, and meanwhile toast the bread on one side only.
Spread the rarebit over the untoasted side and brown under a hot grill.
This mixture can be made and kept in the refrigerator for several days if required.
Sweet white wine can be used instead of beer and gives a good flavour.
Who was St David?
St David was a Welsh bishop who lived over 1,500 years ago. The exact date of his birth is a little sketchy as very little written record was kept back then. We do know, somehow, he was born during a huge thunderstorm – not ominous at all!
People have worked out he was born sometime between 462 and 515AD. For some reason we do know the date of his death – Tuesday, 1 March 589 – making him potentially 127 years old when he died!
David was born to an aristocratic family in the south-west of Wales in Caerfai. Tradition has it he is the son of St Non and the Grandson of Ceredig ap Cunedda, king of Ceredigion (this was one of the kingdoms that rose in Britain after the Romans left).
St David the Preacher
Throughout his life David founded over 12 monasteries and has over 50 churches dedicated to him
in South Wales, Devon, Somerset, Ireland and Brittany in France.
His Monastic community at Glyn Rhosyn (The Vale of Roses), became the largest in Wales and was on the site of the modern St David’s Cathedral.
David became well known as a great teacher and his fame spread throughout Wales and the South West.
His deeply religious austere lifestyle and abstinence from anything pleasurable (this is known as Asceticism) endeared him to the Welsh Christian community.
His eloquence while giving a speech to a church Synod (this is a church council who meet to decide interpretation of scriptures and still meet today), led his peers to elect him Archbishop.
He also presided over the synod of Caerleon, just north of modern-day Newport.
St David the Monk
David lived a very simple yet arduous life. The Monastic Rule he lived by dictated he and his fellow monks would plough the fields by hand without the help of Ox or cows.
Their diet was pretty sparse too, a far cry from his aristocratic childhood. He was allowed to drink only water and eat bread – it wasn’t all bad though – he was ok to put salt and herbs on!
A sort of medieval Welsh Rarebit without any of the good bits!
After a day dragging a plough through a field by hand, David would while away the evenings in prayer. One of the few educated people around, David would also be responsible for reading and re-writing scriptures.
David preached to his followers about the virtues of abstinence and would refrain from eating meat, drinking beer and general frivolity of any kind.
No personal possessions were allowed in the monastery. Even to describe something as “yours” was an offence.
St David the miracle man
While preaching to a large crowd in the village of Llanddewi Brefi people complained they couldn’t see him. At that moment, the ground was said to have risen up so David was standing on a hill.
Not like there weren’t enough hills in South Wales!
At the same time, a white dove, which later became the symbol of St David, landed on his right shoulder.
Legend has it St David was also able to restore a man’s sight (although it doesn’t say how), and bring a boy back to life by, rather bizarrely, splashing his face with tears (although it doesn’t say who’s).
What is St David’s Day?
The tradition of St David’s day goes back to the 1100s after David was made a Saint by Pope Callixtus II.
As the Patron Saint of Wales, St David’s day is celebrated on the day of his death (1 March), with a National St David’s Day parade in the centre of Cardiff with dragons, traditional music, food and clothing.
Traditionally, schools would close for half a day to allow children to get involved and celebrate their deep and rich Welsh culture, history and heritage.
Today, St David’s day is celebrated by Welsh communities around the world. You might see people wearing one of the symbols of Wales and St David – a Daffodil and a Leek.
Greet your Welsh friends
If you know any Welsh people, why not surprise them by (attempting) some of the phrases below! Please don’t expect any help with a reply.
Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus (dee-the goil De-wi ha-peece) – Happy St David’s Day
Bore da (Boh-reh dah) – Good morning
Prynhawn da (Prin-houn dah) – Good afternoon
Diolch (Dee-olch) – Thank you
If you feel more adventurous you can see more Welsh greetings and phrases on The Welsh Gift Shop website.