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Welsh Society Celebrates St. David's Day

Although it is not a public holiday in the U.S., or even the U.K., March 1st is the Feast Day for St. David, the patron saint of Wales.  He is certainly celebrated by members of the Welsh Society, who met at the library in observance of the day, and to further cement plans for this year’s Welsh Festival.

Saint David (c 500-c 589) was a Welsh bishop during the 6th century.  He was born in Wales, and is one of the best documented of the early church saints, although the exact year of his birth is unknown.  He is believed to be the son of Saint Nonna, and the grandson of Ceredig ap Cunedda, King of Ceredigion.  David was primarily renowned as a preacher and teacher, and is credited with founding numerous churches and monasteries across Wales.  The observance of St. David’s day corresponds with the conventionally observed day of his death, on the first of March.  

Throughout his ministry, David was most associated with opposition to Pelagianism (the belief in original sin), and he taught that children were born innocent and that the sins of individuals could not be blamed on others.  His most well-known miracle (one of the requirements for canonization and sainthood), involved a hill growing up underneath him to facilitate a sermon in Llandewi Brefi.  A dove (which became one of his symbols) is said to have alighted on his shoulder during the subsequent sermon.  As a monastic leader, he instructed those who followed him to use no animals in their plowing, to eat only bread with salt and herbs, and to retain no personal possessions.  As a result of his ascetic piousness, St. David was often referred to as the “Water Man” for his abstention from alcohol and rich food. 

One of the other symbols associated with St. David is the Leek, which, along with the Daffodil, has become a national symbol of Wales.  According to legend, St. David ordered Welsh soldiers to identify themselves by wearing leeks on their helmets during a battle in the sixth century against the Saxons. This led to a mytho-historically great victory. It is said that the battle took place in a leek field and was known as the Battle of Crecy.

David was buried at St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, where a shrine was placed in his memory. It was a popular place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages, but during the 10th and 11th centuries, the Cathedral was raided by Vikings who removed the shrine and stripped off the precious metal adornments. In 1275 a new shrine was constructed. A ruined base of that shrine is still in existence today. 

St. David is celebrated by the Catholic church, and has become associated over time in the United States with members of the Presbyterian faith, which is an offshoot of the Reformed Protestant tradition derived from the Church of Scotland.  Many early Welsh immigrants were members of the faith, and perpetuated the remembrance of St. David in their communities.

Most of the Malad Valley’s earliest Welsh immigrants were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints, but the valley has had a long history of Presbyterianism as well, including one of the oldest documented churches of the faith in the region, which will feature prominently in this year’s Welsh Festival, as will the 2nd Ward building of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Welsh Society discussed the final schedule for this year’s event, which will include photo and family history displays, musical performances, a quilt show, events in Samaria, poetry competitions, wagon tours, and several concerts and church services.

After a meal of traditional Welsh bread, the Welsh Society viewed a video about the Nebraska town Wymore which also has a long history of pioneering Welsh families.  The video showcased the effect Welsh settlement had on the long term makeup of the town, and the cultural traditions and values that are still in place as a result.  Those in attendance commented on the many similarities between the town and Malad, and also suggested some of the ways Malad might increase its promotion of Welsh identity. 

After the loss of an in-person event for the Welsh Festival in 2020 and 2021, the Welsh Festival Committee is excited to return to the full slate of events enjoyed in the past.  Most events will be at the Malad City Park and 2nd Ward building and Samaria, with the evening program at the Presbyterian church.

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