St. David’s Day: Red dragons, Daffodils and Welsh Rarebit

Would you know what today’s (3/1/12) UK Google doodle was about, without looking up the answer? Most Americans probably wouldn’t, even though quite a few of us have Welsh ancestry over here. Today is St. David’s Day, it is the National Day for Wales and Welsh people.

This blogpost aims to give St. David’s Day its due by discussing its history, food and festivities.

March 1st is the anniversary of David’s death. In his lifetime, this humble monk provided a crucial tip to Welsh soldiers fighting off the Saxons. During battle, it was hard to tell who was the enemy and who was not; both sides were dressed in the same clothes. David advised his fellow Welsh to put a leek on their hat or uniform for differentiation. His suggestion changed the course of the battle, and the Welsh won. This is why the leek is a symbol of Wales.

Running a close second for national symbols is the yellow daffodil flower. “Daffodil” and “leek” are very close words in the Welsh language–leek is “Cenhinen”, while daffodil is Peter’s leek, or “Cenhinen Pedr”. Just looking at the two plants, they both grow from bulbs and have veiny stiff stalks for greenery. They also flourish in colder Northern climates. In the daffodil’s defense, though, it is more attractive, better-smelling, easier to find, and easier to make a corsage/boutonniere out of than a leek!

In addition to daffodils, food, costumes, concerts and parades are a big part of St. David’s Day celebrations in Wales. If you search Youtube for “St. David’s Day”, parades in Cardiff show children and women in red and black plaid, a multitude of Welsh flags featuring the red dragon, people dressed as red dragons, and women and children wearing the native costume.

Some of the foods eaten all week, which was February 25th through March 1 this year, include:

  • Cawl ( pronounced “cowl”, rhymes with “howl”) is a red meat-based broth soup featuring leeks, rutabagas (aka “swedes”), parsnips, carrots, cabbage, celery, and parsley.
  • Laver Cake is a seaweed and oatmeal cake cooked with bacon lard; it is served at breakfast.
  •  Welsh Rarebit is a fondue-like cheese topping poured over crispy toast. It consists of melted Welsh cheddar, dry mustard, worcestershire sauce, paprika, cayenne, eggs, butter, flour and beer.
  •  Welsh Cake is a pan-cooked spice cookie with currants or raisins in it.

I am eager to try making Welsh Rarebit myself this year.

Whatever you end up doing today, have a Happy St. David’s Day (**and all that jazz**)!

TRIVIA: ‘*It’s not unusual* to have Welsh ancestry in the US. As of 2008, the US Census Community Survey reported an estimated 3.8 million Americans had a Welsh surname, and .6% had some Welsh ancestry. ‘Even if you didn’t have recent stats to reference, I think we can all agree that names like Jones and Davis are pretty common.                                                  ‘Being part Welsh myself, I have a dream of visiting Wales in the near future. To quote a film about a famous daredevil, **if you don’t follow your dreams, you might as well be a vegetable**.

PS-You might be wondering what all the asterisks were for in this post. Each one is a riddle about a famous Welsh actor or singer. Can you guess who it is? If not, the link takes you to something they’re famous for–a song, a movie performance, or both.