Friday, 4 March 2016

Diwrnod Dewi Sant (St David's day)

Well ffrindiau, March the first was St David's day. St David is the patron saint of Wales (and of doves) and it is a big deal here. Many places in Wales have parades and events and all sorts of stuff going on. Some friends from the Carmarthen Vegans had an outing last  weekend in honour of Dewi Sant --we especially like him because he was a vegetarian and early animal rights activist. He was a tad bit on the extreme side with his asceticism (we Carmarthen vegans love to have fun) but his ideas about animals were right on the money.

So who was St David? 
According to an article in the Telegraph with a bit of wiki thrown in:

He was born in Caerfai in Pembrokshire, Wales in around 500 AD. He was recognised as a national patron saint at the height of Welsh resistance to the Normans. He helped to spread the word of Christianity, and he founded around 12 monastaries in his lifetime. Monastaries founded by him were known for their extreme asceticism, where monks abstained from worldly pleasures, living on a diet of bread, vegetables, water.They also did all hard labour themselves, including farming without the aid of ox to plow the fields.

While little is known about St David's life, he is known for performing miracles. His most famous miracle was when he was preaching to a large crowd in the village of Llanddewi Brefi stands on the spot where the ground on which he stood is reputed to have risen up to form a small hill so that those gathered could see him better. A white dove, which became his emblem, was seen settling on his shoulder. John Davies notes that one can scarcely "conceive of any miracle more superfluous" in that part of Wales than the creation of a new hill. note: this cracks me up because if you have ever watched Little Britain the village of Llanddewi Brefi is where "the only gay in the village" lives. Also Wales is full of hills. Everywhere you go is uphill, both ways. I swear. That is the Welshest miracle ever!
St David also lived after eating bread poisoned by monks at his monastary who tired of their life of austerity, and restored the sight of his tutor, St Paulinius. Ha! This is why St David needed to be a bit more of a "joyful vegan"--so his own monks wouldn't revolt against him!  
In medieval times, St David was thought to be the nephew of King Arthur. In some stories, it is his mother who was the niece of King Arthur. Legend also says that St Patrick foresaw David's birth.
St David is thought to have died on March 1, 589 AD, and his remains were buried in St David's Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, which was a popular place of pilgrimage after he was canonised in 1120 AD.
the daffodil is the national symbol of Wales

People often wear leeks in remembrance of St David's guidance during the battle against the Saxons when, supposedly, St David advised Welsh warriors to wear a leek during a battle with the Saxons, so enemies and allies could be distinguished.
They won the battle and leeks became a Welsh symbol.

During St David's last sermon he said words to his followers were: "Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us."
"Do the little things" has become a well-known inspirational saying in Wales.

So when the Carmarthen vegans heard that you could get into the Botanic Gardens for FREE (am ddim!) on the weekend before St David's day we were there like a shot because love nothing more than a free day out with lovely outdoor surroundings and a picnic lunch (even if it is freezing cold!)

It was fantastic. We walked all around the outside gardens and when we got cold we went into the dome. The dome was used in the Doctor Who episode of The Waters of Mars as Bowie Base One.
Inside the dome there were lots of stalls selling their wares--crafts like stained glass to spicy chutneys. Of course the obligatory sausages (Wales is a farming country, sadly) but we just ignored those and looked at all the other things. There were several choirs singing--both in Welsh and English. There was a fabulous duo called Fiddlebox walking around and playing their instruments like ghostly apparitions. George Whitfield on accordion and Helen Adam on violin wandered the grounds and the sounds of traditional Welsh tunes like The Ash Grove and All through the night floated over the hills. Magical!

There was also tonnes of people wearing traditional dress. I love the Welsh national costume--the stovepipe hats the women wear are astounding. Several men and women in traditional dress did some folk dancing which reminded me of my old days in Hitchin at Staplers and The British Schools Museum.

My heart longed to join in and then what do you know--the call came for others to dance! I was over there like a shot, my face beaming and my feet bouncing up and down in little hops. It was only then did I notice that this was mainly aimed at kids and their parents. Some nice lady in a stovepipe hat asked where my partner was and so I quickly called my friend Priya over as I knew she loves to dance and doesn't mind looking a bit of a fool. I'm in my pink coat and Priya is in yellow. You can't miss us!
Big circle of fun

this dad had to step in because the little girl would not hold my hand!

1, 2, 3 clap!
swing your partner

skip to the right

swing this way

swing that way

We were heading to the café at this point to get a hot drink, but after the dancing I certainly didn't need one!

We had a brilliant day, enjoying the view, feeding a duck, stuffing our faces full of vegan goodies and laughing like crazy. All for free. It really doesn't get an better than this, folks.

We had so much fun we decided to make this a St David's day tradition. Hoorah!

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