Why are daffodils associated with St David's Day? Not being Welsh I had no idea until I looked it up. According to the Visit Wales website page on National Symbols of Wales the daffodil began to be associated with Wales as recently as the 19th century thanks to the British Prime Minister Lloyd George. It is an optimistic symbol for Wales, rather more attractive to wear on St David's Day than the leek. The custom of wearing leeks in the hat is said to have come from the time of a battle between the Welsh and the Saxons when St David wanted the Welsh to wear leeks so they could recognize other Welsh.
St David is the Patron Saint of Wales. There are more legends told about him than there are certain facts. He certainly existed, was probably born in the Dyfed area of Wales, became a travelling priest and later an Archbishop. He is said to have founded several monasteries including a major abbey at Mynyw where St David's Cathedral now stands. The fact of his existence as a Christian preacher in Wales in the 6th century is one of the indications that Christianity in Wales continued after the departure of the Romans.
Words attributed to St David that are often quoted are 'do the little things'. I thought that was gentle advice, relatively easy to do for those of us who do not aspire to greatness. Then I discovered the larger context from what are said to be his last words to his monks before his death on 1 March some time around the end of the 6th century A.D. Here is an English translation of those words:
"Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do those little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us"
So what might his monks have seen Dewi (David) do? According to David Farmer's article in the Oxford Dictionary of Saints (OUP 1987)
"David devoted himself to works of mercy and practised frequent genuflexions and total immersion in cold water as his favourite austerities."
Is total immersion in cold water one of "the little things" I wonder?
David created a strict rule for his monks. Here's a description:
"By his rule he obliged all his monks to assiduous manual labour in the spirit of penance: he allowed them the use of no cattle to ease them at their work in tilling the ground, They were never suffered to speak but on occasions of absolute necessity, and they never ceased to pray, at least mentally, during their labour. They returned late in the day to the monastery, to read, write, and pray. Their food was only bread and vegetables, with a little salt, and they never drank anything better than a little milk mingled with water. After their repast they spent three hours in prayer and adoration; then took a little rest, rose at cock-crowing, and continued in prayer till they went out to work. Their habit was of the skins of beasts. When any one petitioned to be admitted, he waited ten days at the door, during which time he was tried by harsh words, repeated refusals, and painful labours, that he might learn to die to himself. When he was admitted, he left all his worldly substance behind him, for the monastery never received any thing on the score of admission."
(Vol. III "The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints" by Alban Butler, publ. D. & J. Sadlier, & Company 1864)
Mmm...I'll try to 'do the little things' that are under my nose to do today but rather differently from David's monks. And I do feel joyful today and am trying to keep the faith.
In honour of St David I hope you enjoy this Welsh hymn with photos of West Wales.