Happy St David's Day!
Unfurl your dragon, display your daffodils and pinon a leek with pride as today is St David’s Day! There is not much known that can be historically proven about Dewi Sant and most of what we know is taken from an C11th document written about 500 years after he lived. However this does not diminish his importance to the Welsh people and the day of his death was officially recognised as a national festival during the C18th. A festival vibe certainly prevails for the St David’s Day celebrations today.
The story goes that Dewi travelled on many pilgrimages, even as far as Jerusalem, and was created an Archbishop. On his return to Wales he established a strict religious community, which developed into the cathedral town of St David’s. Many miracles have been attributed to David including, through prayer, restoring the sight of his teacher and having the ground rise up beneath him so he could be seen and heard by all when preaching.
Growing up in the south of England, apart from the annual St George’s Day marching parade, which to be honest my fellow Girl Guides and I just used as an excuse to flirt with Scouts across the cathedral green, I didn’t really experience any major celebrations for Saints Days. My daughter will definitely not be able to say the same thing! St David’s Day is a big deal and I think it wonderful that traditional Welsh culture is such a big part of everyday life. This year our village school held their Eisteddfod (a festival of music, literature and performance) on Friday so the standard Welsh lady costume was not required. If you have never come across this phenomenon before Laura, our office manager, has kindly provided an old class photo from a ‘few’ years ago.
The St David’s Day parade can be the highlight of the spring social calendar in many cities and towns so if you are out and about today look out for giant Welsh dragons, choirs bursting into rousing renditions of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and tasty Welsh treats on offer.
What are your best memories of St David’s Day celebrations? I would love to hear about them all!
And what would be better on St David’s Day than to have a go at making Welsh Cakes. They really are ever so easy and you don’t have to have a store cupboard worthy of Mary Berry to have the ingredients to hand.
All you need is 225g plain flour, 85g caster sugar, 100g butter, 1 egg, a pinch of making powder if you have it, a splash of milk and whatever favourite spices, dried fruit, or any other flavouring that strikes your fancy. Now I have a Thermomix (which I am very lucky to have and could talk about for hours if anyone is interested!) so it only takes me a few seconds to mix all the ingredients together if I am in a rush. But for the traditionalists, put the flour sugar, any spices, and baking powder in a bowl and then rub in the butter. Next mix in the dry fruit, chocolate or anything else you are using and then work in the egg to create a soft dough. If the dough is still a bit crumbly add some milk.
Now all you need to do is roll it out, cut into your desired shapes and, presuming you don’t have a bake stone to place over your range, cook both sides gently in a frying pan over a low heat until golden brown.
There was some debate in the office when I asked what was considered the best topping for the cakes. We are split between a sprinkling of sugar or a generous helping of Welsh butter. Join the debate and let us know your favourite Welsh cake accompaniment!
News to (mostly) make you smile
When I was on holiday last week I must admit that I didn’t spend much time keeping up with the news, but when I came back to the reality of everyday life I thought I had better take a look at what had been going on in the world. The main headlines are never particularly joyful, and often these days downright scary, but there were a couple of stories of a lighter and far more positive nature.
First of all, and it’s not really that surprising as any Welsh rugby fan already takes it as fact, it has been reported that of all the Six Nations stadiums, on average, the Millennium Stadium is the loudest. The recordings have been taken by sports journalists with specialist equipment and although (and we will say this in hushed tones) Wales did lose to England, the average decibel level in the Cardiff venue was 92db. The actual loudest moment so far was at the final whistle when Ireland triumphed over France in Dublin and this came in at 101db but the crown in the Millennium Stadium did also manage to reach a level in excess of 100d. No wonder the atmosphere feels electric when the 70,000 strong crowd is as loud as a pneumatic drill!
Wales is welcoming more and more visitors from China every year and to try and bridge the gap between the languages and cultures of the two ancient nations Visit Britain is harnessing the Chinese tradition of given Mandarin names to popular destinations, people and food. Within China, people had the opportunity to look at a place name and pictures and devise new names that would better resonant with them. Nearly 30,000 voted on Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch with the final choice coming in as Healthy Lung Village! Nothing to do with the original origins of the name or even the location but they are right, it does take a good deep breath to get through the name! Two other alternative names that I thought really summed up well the places they were describing were ‘Grab a torch to visit the castle’ for the brooding Carreg Cennen Castle and the evocative 'Mountain River Walkway’ for the Brecon Beacons.
It was with sadness that I read of the death of prominent historian John Davies. His book ‘The History of Wales’ was one of the first text books I purchased when undertaking my degree and is widely acknowledged as a definitive guide to Welsh history. It is so much more than just a text book. It truly does read more like a novel and I still now dip in and out of it to refresh my knowledge as it is a great read. I do watch quite a few history programmes and when he appears as a commentator his passion for his country tempered by his obvious intellect always makes him a joy to listen to.
To end on a happy note, it was lovely to read of a bible dating back to 1837 being reunited with its original family. The bible was donated to charity shop in Wrexham supporting the Nightingale House Hospice and, using the generations of family inscriptions inside and with the help of the local news, it is now back in its rightful place to carry on the recording of a long family history!