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BritainUSA Home > All about Britain

Celebrating Cultural Heritage: It's Wales Week
British Embassy, Washington DC, 2/25/2008

Wales Week
Wales Week in the United States is an annual event that takes place in the week running up to March 1, St. David’s Day. Wales Week is coordinated by the Welsh Assembly Government in New York in partnership with a wide variety of organizations, artists, writers and performers in both Wales and the USA.

This year the Welsh Assembly's New York Office has coordinated a series of traditional and cultural Welsh events around the US to celebrate St. David's Day. These events include:

  • Welsh food and drink sampling in Boston
  • Southern California Wales Week Study Tour in Los Angeles
  • ‘Treasure of Wales’ film and lecture on the National Library of Wales’ precious collection of manuscripts, film, photography and other rare artifacts in New York City
  • An exhibition of art work by Welsh artist, Tim Davies in New York
  • A lunch featuring a traditional Welsh sampling of dishes on Wall Street

St. David's Day
March 1 is St. David's Day where St. David, the patron saint of Wales, is celebrated as a patriotic and cultural figure throughout Wales and  by Welsh communities around the world.

St. David or Dewi Sant (his name in Welsh) was born towards the end of the fifth century  and has been venerated as the patron saint of Wales since the early Middle Ages. St. David was a  renowned teacher and preacher, founding monastic settlements in Britain in a period when neighboring tribal regions  were still mostly pagan. He rose to a bishopric, and presided over two synods as well as going on pilgrimages to Jerusalem. St David's Cathedral now stands on the site of the monastery he founded in what is now Pembrokeshire.

The best-known miracle associated with St. David is said to have taken place when he was preaching in the middle of a large crowd. When those at the back complained that they could not see or hear him, the ground on which he stood is reputed to have risen up to form a small hill so that everyone had a good view. After, a golden-beaked dove is said to have landed on his shoulder as a symbol of his holiness. The village where this miracle is believed to have taken place is now known as Llanddewi Brefi.

Incidentally, St. David is the only patron saint of the four chief countries of the United Kingdom to have been born in the land which adopted him.

The date of March 1st was chosen in remembrance of the death of St. David on March 1, 589. Thus, March 1st was declared a national day of celebration within Wales in the 18th century.

Celebrations and Traditions
In Wales, St. David’s Day is celebrated with food and song. The singing of traditional songs may be followed by a Te Bach, tea with bara brith (traditional cake-like fruit bread). The national flag of Wales Y Ddraig Goch (the Red Dragon) is flown or worn as a pin or pendant. The Welsh also wear a leek (the symbol of St. David) or a daffodil (a Welsh symbol that is in season in March), both the national emblems of Wales, on their lapel.

Every year on March 1, parades are held in Wales to commemorate St. David. The largest of these is held in the Welsh capital of Cardiff. 

In the 1990s, it became routine for the Prince of Wales to spend St. David's Day in Wales attending celebratory events. These sometimes include an investiture at Cardiff Castle where the Prince awards national honors to Welsh people on behalf of the Queen and a St. David's Day concert given by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

A new song for children to sing at St. David's Day festivities was composed by Gwenno Dafydd and Heulwen Thomas and first performed in 2007

The British Embassy in Washington, DC, will be flying the national flag of Wales on March 1 to celebrate St. David's Day.

St. David’s Day Message from the First Minister for Wales Rhodri Morgan
I am delighted to send greetings from Wales on the occasion of St David’s Day – the National Day of Wales.  The Welsh are a proud and passionate nation and no more so than on March 1st, our National Day when we delight in seeing the Welsh flag flying across the World. This year again Wales has much to be proud of. Two Nobel Prize winners – Sir Martin Evans, joint winner of the Medicine Prize for his work in Stem Cell research and Sir John Houghton, joint winner of the Peace Prize for his work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Welsh-born Julia Gillard was elected Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.  

In sport, Joe Calzaghe became the undisputed Super Middleweight World Boxing Champion. Tori James became the first Welsh woman to climb Everest.  Jody Cundy and Ellen Hunter both took world titles in disability cycling  and we have had a record number of touring Welsh golfers  - all ambassadors for the quality of golf in Wales as we move ever closer to hosting the 2010 Ryder Cup. Those looking towards the 2012 Olympics would also be well advised to consider using the training facilities available in Wales to acclimatise for London. The Australian Paralympic Team have already committed to do just that.

Both the National Library of Wales and Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales celebrated their centenaries. I’m delighted to see both these institutions continuing to develop, evolve and share their unique collections with visitors from across the world. 

In January this year, in what we believe to be world first, Wales has appointed an older persons commissioner. Independent of government, the commissioner will be an ambassador for older people, in the same way that the children’s commissioner, itself a first for Wales, has been a champion for children and young people in Wales.

I'm also delighted that we now have 31 Welsh communities linking with partners in Sub-Saharan Africa through the Gold Star Communities Scheme. Wales is leading the world in this collaboration with the UN – and in renewable energy Wales continues to be a world leader with the world’s biggest wood-chip fueled biomass plant being built in Port Talbot.

In environment, energy, the economy and education, Wales is striding ahead.

In addition, the Government of Wales Act 2006 provided for new powers for the National Assembly for Wales to make its own Assembly Measures in a series of devolved fields from May 2007.

It’s no wonder we’re proud to be Welsh! I wish you all a very happy St. David’s Day.

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