March 1st is a big day in Wales. It's the Saint's day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales. As you can see from the title, in the Welsh language it's called Dydd Gŵyl Dewi. However, maybe I should also explain that this translates back to Saint David's Festival rather than day, which might give you a clue about it's perceived importance.
David was a cleric in the sixth century, born near the west coast of Wales, near to what is now the cathedral city of St. David's, the smallest cathedral city in the United Kingdom.
Many of you will know that before I came to live here in south west France a few years ago, I lived in Wales. In fact I lived there for over 30 years, more than half my life. I was born in Lancashire and apart from a few holidays didn't have much involvement with Wales until I took a job there. However, once I had started working there I quickly fell in love with the country and it's people. I very much enjoyed living and working there and learning about it's customs. During my time in Wales it gained devolution and it's own Welsh language tv channel. I even tried, very unsuccessfully, to learn it's language.
The Welsh language is one of the old Celtic languages of Britain, dating back to about the time of David and deriving from the ancient language of British.
The national flower of Wales is the daffodil. I am always pleased when I go out into the garden on St David's day and see those first blooms of spring waving hello. I love the synergy that brings the blooms of the national flower out on the day dedicated to the patron saint.
But 2011 has delivered another string to add to the celebrations. Rugby is the national sport of Wales , well, it may not be considered the national sport by every one in Wales any more, but it is still considered the national sport by the majority of Welsh people. so how very fitting that in the week that finds the daffodils blooming and St David celebrating his festival, the national rugby team also delivered another win in the prestigious RBS Six Nations tournament, defeating Italy by 24 points to 16 in Rome.
Wales also has it's own food. Welsh cakes are a delicious light fruit cake much like a drop scone. They are traditionally baked on a bakestone or griddle.
Another Welsh delicacy is Laverbread. If you ever find yourselves in Wales then you really must seek out this treat and try it for yourselves. But don't let the name confuse you. It's not a traditional bread. Indeed, you should pay more attention to the Laver part rather than the bread part. Laver is an edible seaweed.
My own favourite, although it's hard to choose, is cawl (pronounced cowl). Cawl is the traditional meal of St David's day, forming an important part of the festivities.
Cawl is a thin soup or broth. The number of recipes around is roughly equivalent to the number of people that speak Welsh! However, on the whole it's a thin broth containing meat and vegetables. The meat is, more often than not, lamb and the vegetables usually contain leeks. Of course, leeks are also a popular symbol of Wales..... I guess they could even be considered the national vegetable. If you have ever watched Wales' comedian/singer Max Boyce then you can't have failed to notice his enormous leek buttonhole!
Then there are the delicious Welsh Cheeses. Traditional Caerphilly has been made for almost 200 years. There are lots of others, Llanboidy, Y Fenni and Tintern to name a few.
Of course, entertainment is also virtually a national endeavour, from Tom Jones to Shirley Bassey, from Dylan Thomas to the Manic Street Preachers, from Anthony Hopkins to Catherine Zeta Jones... the list is almost endless
I think all that's left for me to say - Diwrnod Dewi Sant Mwynhau's. Enjoy St David's Day
Oh, in my own garden just small cluster of daffodils arrived to trumpet in St David's Day, but plenty more are just around the corner