Dydd Gwyl Dewi Dedwydd! Happy St David’s Day!

Feb 28, 2014 by

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Dedwydd!  Happy St David’s Day!

March 1st is the feast day of Saint David, otherwise known as Dewi Sant, a Celtic monk and bishop who became the patron saint of Wales.   In Wales, St David’s Day, or Dydd Gŵyl Dewi as it is known in Welsh, is celebrated as a national holiday, and symbols  of Welsh pride are proudly displayed throughout the country.

 

 

David was born in Wales—the only one of the four main UK saints to be born in the country he represents– near the end of the 5th century, possibly in Pembrokeshire.  He was a member of the royal Ceredigion family, the son of Sandde, Prince of Powys, and Non, daughter of a chieftain of Menevia, now the town of St David’s.   He founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosin (The Vale of Roses) on the western headland of Sir Benfro, at the spot where St David’s Cathedral stands today. In addition to being the patron saint of Wales, David is also the patron saint of doves; in almost all depictions of the saint, you’ll find a dove somewhere in the image.   Legend holds that a white dove alighted on David’s shoulder while he was preaching, thus marking him as blessed by God and forever a protector of the peaceful bird.

 

 

 

 

 

One well-known tradition associated with St David’s day (and one of my favorites) is the wearing of daffodils, the national flower of Wales, and a colorful symbol of the return of Spring.  Daffodils supposedly grew around the walls of St David’s monastery, and the flowers are also known as cenhinen pedr, “Peter’s leeks”.   More about leeks in a moment…

Many Welsh people (Cymry) dress in traditional attire, such as the conical black hat once worn by Welsh farm women or miners’ helmets and lamps representative of Wale’s long history of mining.

 

 

 

 

Another plant worn proudly on St David’s Day is the patriotic national vegetable of Wales, the humble leek.     Leeks are wonderful cooked in soups and stews and breads, but why would you WEAR one? 

Well, the custom allegedly came about because St David ordered his soldiers (who were also probably monks) to wear leeks on their helmets as they went to battle against the pagan Saxon invaders. Or maybe it was King Cadwaladr of Gwyned who ordered the soldiers to strap on the leeks before the battle against the Saxon foes. It’s even possible that adoration of the leek pre-dates St David, stemming instead from ancient druidic practice in Wales, when the medicinal properties of leeks would have been highly valued.  According to Shakespeare, King Henry V wore a leek in honor of his Welsh heritage; soldiers in modern Welsh regiments carry on the tradition by pinning leeks pinned to their uniforms as a symbol of national pride. 

   Whatever the source of the tradition, the leek is firmly rooted in Welsh hearts and attire as their national allium.

 

 

If you don’t want to wear the leek, try cooking it in this recipe for cawl, a traditional Welsh soup served on St David’s Day. I usually add lamb to mine, but it is just as tasty without any meat.

 

 

 

St David has his own flag, a gold cross on a black background, which you’ll likely see flown alongside the national Welsh flag, with Y Ddraig Goch, the red dragon of Wales, emblazoned on a green and white (leek colors) background.

 

 

 

Want to learn the national anthem of Wales, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Old Land of Our Fathers) but worried you won’t know the correct pronunciations? This video has the lyrics for you in Welsh, phonetic Welsh and English:

 

 

 

Wishing you a wondeful St David’s Day, beautiful Celtic people–CYMRU AM BYTH!** WALES FOREVER!

 

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**Cymru am Byth is pronounced KUHM-ree ahm BITH

 

Sources and more info about St David’s Day and Wales:

St David’s Day, Wikipedia.org

St David’s Day National Parade, stdavidsday.org

www.walesonline.co.uk

The Leek: National Emblem of Wales, Historic-uk.com  and St David

Saint David, Catholicsaints.org

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Vintage Women of Wales, Part Two

Jan 19, 2014 by

In my previous post on Victorian-era Welsh women, I focused mostly on farm women attired in traditional Welsh costume.  In this post, the upper middle class women and children  (in vintage photos from the National Library of Wales) are also from the Victorian era, but are clothed in fashions more typical of English women of that era.   Conformity and modesty–at least in public–were de rigueur in Victorian Welsh society, but small touches of personality shine through in these intriguing black and white photos from late 19th century Wales.

The women’s dresses are late Victorian in style, although without the large structural hoops common at that time.  The ladies have all parted their hair right down the middle and pulled it into tight buns, a typical hair style for daily activities.  I think that kind of  “up do” would give me a serious headache.

Young Elinor and her doll were photographed in 1853 by John Dillwyn Llewelyn (1810-1882), who may have been her father.   Under her white apron, she is wearing a plaid dress, in a fabric likely made from local Welsh wool.   Her hair is either wet from having just been washed (ok) or greasy from not being washed enough (yuck)– I’m putting my money on the former, rather than the latter.

  She looks rather sad, but her somber expression was typical for early photography subjects.   The photographic process and finished pictures were expensive, so the frivolity of a smile was frowned upon—pun intended.

There was, however, no such rule against dogs smiling in photographs, as seen here.
Women were not often photographed indoors with large hunting dogs like this curly canine, which could be a Welsh Cocker spaniel, the forerunner of the Welsh Springer spaniel.  Pampered lap pooches like pugs and Papillions were favored by middle and upper class women in staged portraits such as the one above.

Another staged portrait shot, but this woman is more relaxed as she arranges the flowers. Interesting to see her in a short-sleeved dress, and the fashionable curls in her hair.

Those dangly ringlets you see draped around Miss Hughes’ face were used to soften the severe (but practical) hairstyle common for women in the late 19th century.   Note that she’s also using a hair comb and a lace cap or snood to contain her hair– a bit of a split personality moment for this spinster lady, captured for us to view via the wet collodion photographic process.

What a sweet smile on her face!  You can see a full length picture of Jane with her young husband  HERE.

  Janie (as she was called) was born in 1865 in Pontfaen, Breconshire, Wales, to Howell and Eleanor Powell.  She married John, a Methodist missionary,  in September, 1887, and they immediately set sail for India.   Sadly, Jane died of cholera less than a week after their arrival in Calcutta; she is buried in India.  Read more about her and John HERE.

Riding sidesaddle is no easy feat, especially in a tight fitting corset and long skirts.  These ladies appear to have no worries, though, and look confident in the saddle.
Llansanffraid Glan Conwy (Glan Conwy) is a small village across from the town of Conwy on the estuary of the River Conwy.  It was founded in the 5th century;  the name translates from the Welsh as Church of St Ffraid (St Brigid of Ireland) on the bank of the River Conwy.

These sweet young ladies look to be (and probably were) little more than children, even though they worked as maids.   I’d love to know what became of them…

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