March 1st is celebrated in Cymru as Gŵyl Dewi (St. David’s Day): Dewi Sant, son of Non (daughter of Cynyr Caer Goch), conceived by rape and born on a cliff overlooking Môr Iwerddon (the Irish Sea), patron saint of Cymru. The date of his birth is unknown and variously set in the 5th Century and the 6th. March 1st is reconginized as the day of his death but, again, the year is uncertain, c. AD589.
Dewi’s best known teaching was “gwnewch y pethau bychain” – do the small things. Legend proports these words were spoken at the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi, where he place a small scarf on the grass and the ground rose so that he could be seen by the multitude who had come to hear him speak.
On this day, there are parades in the capital city, Caerdydd (Cardiff), community events such as feasts and festivals, schools hold concerts and services, perform plays and arrange suppers. The Gymanfa Ganu and the Oedfa are favorite ways of celebrating the saint’s day. The Gymanfa is a singing festival and the Oedfa is a religious observance (also with singing). These celebrations occur all over the world, where ever Welsh people gather – from the metropolises of New York and Hong Kong to the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Pice Man, cawl and cwrw are the traditional fare in the community suppers, accompanied by – singing! As well as harping, piping, reciting and the utterly unique cerdd dant – the juxtaposition of two opposing tunes from harp and voice.
Tradtional cawl is a lamb stew (this is lambing season around these parts). The variations on recipes depend on where in Cymru you are but the basic recipe is: 500g (1lb) lamb, 500g (1lb) potatoes, swede (rutabaga), leeks, onions, drippings (butter/cooking oil will do), seasoning (usually only salt & pepper) and water. Brown the lamb, quarter the potatoes, slice and dice the leeks, onions and swedes (not too small – this is a hearty dish for cold weather), and simmer for hours – or so my mother-in-law insisted.
This year, we will be celebrating Dydd Gŵyl Dewi in the village of Merthyr (martyr) with the parishoners and clergy of St. Martin’s Church – a community a few miles north of Caerfyrddin.
Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus i Bawb! Gwnewch y pethau bychain.