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St David's & How Leeks Saved the Day

St David, or Dewi Sant as he is called in the land of his patronage, Wales, is the only patron saint of the four British nations who hails from the nation he represents. He is remembered particularly on the day of his death, March 1st. On this day many Welsh people sport one or other of the national emblems: the national flower, the daffodil, or the symbol of St David, the leek. Usually men and boys wear leaks, while the fairer sex opts for the bright yellow daffodils. In Welsh the daffodil is actually called 'Peter's leek', Cenhinen Bedr. The Welsh flag is flown on this day and there is an annual parade in the capital, Cardiff, celebrating the heritage of Wales.

Why leeks? One story goes that the Welsh were struggling in battle against Saxon invaders and part of the problem was that, in the heat of battle, they couldn't tell which men were on which side for both parties wore similar dress. Dewi Sant was nearby and seeing what was happening shouted to the Welsh men, "You must mark yourselves so that you can better tell who is Saxonand who is Welsh." He plucked a flowering leek plant from the ground and said "Here, wear these soyou will know that any soldier who does not have a leek is your enemy." This turned the battle around and with the aid of the leek the Welsh were victorious! It's also said that in his life as a monk Dewi Sant lived off only bread, water, herbs and leeks.

Dewi Sant was the son of Non, daughter of Cynyr of Caio, and Sant, of the royal house of Ceredigion, and was born in the fifth century. He studied Christian history and literature and founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosyn, 'The Vale of Roses', which is on the western coast of Pembrokeshire, where the Cathedral of St David's now stands. Dewi Sant went on to gain fame as a teacher and ascetic. It's said that when he went to give a speech to a great crowd at Llanddewi Brefi in Ceredigion, those at the outer edges could not hear him, so he placed a handkerchief on the ground and the earth rose to form a small hill under his feet, enabling all to hear. While he was giving his address, a golden-beaked dove landed on his shoulder, further demonstrating his sanctity.

Shortly before his death, in around 589 AD, Dewi Sant spoke to his fellow monks, saying: “Brothers be ye constant. The yoke which with single mind ye have taken, bear ye to the end; and whatsoever ye have seen with me and heard, keep and fulfil. Lords, brothers and sisters, be cheerful, keep the faith, and do those little things which ye have seen me do and heard me say.”

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