I know February is a short month, but can you believe that we will be into March next week?
Here is a fact you probably don’t know: March 1 is St David’s Day, the national Welsh holiday. You also might not know that:
• Wales is about the size of the state of New Jersey
• Wales has a population of around 3 million people, compared to England’s 53 million, according to www.bbc.co.uk
• Wales is 8,023 square miles, compared to England’s 50,337 and the United States’ massive 3,794,000 according to www.nationsencyclopaedia.com
• The Welsh flag features a dramatic red dragon
• A Welsh mathematician, Robert Recorde, invented the “equal sign” in the 1500s (www.bbc.co.uk)
Most Americans consider the daffodil to be an all-too-common lawn weed. However, this pretty yellow flower, which grows well in Wales’ spring climate, is that country’s national floral emblem. The daffodil emblem is very popular today and often is worn on lapels by Welsh people on March 1. The more traditional emblem is the less glamorous leek — a vegetable in the onion family which historically was an important part of the Welsh diet — the symbolism of which dates back to the 1500s. According to www.data-wales.co.uk, one explanation is the legend of a battle between the Welsh and English Saxons fought in a field of leeks that has nothing to do with eating!
Wales has been united with England for many more centuries than Scotland or Ireland. In 1277, King Edward I of England invaded Wales and conquered the territory, and the rest, as they say, is history. Unlike in Scotland, England and Wales share most of the same laws and health and education systems, but there are strong feelings of nationalism within Wales, including vigorous campaigns to keep the ancient Welsh Celtic language alive.
Did you know that road signs appear in both English and Welsh throughout the nation? In America, we “yield;” in England, we “give way;” and in Wales, they “Ymollwyng.”
The Welsh patron saint, St. David, is remembered every March 1. St. David was a Welsh bishop during the sixth century, but little is known of his history. Nevertheless, there is a huge amount of speculation and legend about his life, including threats of poisoning, immorality and sea monsters!
In 2007, there was a petition for March 1 to become a Welsh national holiday, but Tony Blair, the British prime minister of the time, rejected this. So unlike the Scottish or Irish, the Welsh have to work on their national saint’s day.
Although I consider myself an English rose as I lived in London, England, from the age of three weeks for more than 40 years, I must confess that I actually was born in Wales while my mother was visiting my grandparents, who lived there.
This means that, had I been in any way gifted at sports, I technically could have played for the English or Welsh national rugby or hockey teams. However, given my lackluster performance on the school playing fields, this was never a decision I was faced with. It amuses my husband to call me a “Welsh daffodil” rather than an “English rose,” but I have learned that the secret of a happy marriage is to occasionally practice selective deafness.
Comparatively little is heard about the Welsh emigrations to the U.S., unlike their Scottish and Irish counterparts. However, the first Welsh Quakers, who were seeking religious freedom, settled in Pennsylvania in the late 17th century. The Welsh talent for mining — tin, gold, slate and coal — drew many more to work in the mines of Ohio and Pennsylvania in the 19th century and the slate mines of Vermont and New York. In the Southern U.S., Knoxville, Tenn., has the greatest Welsh heritage as immigrants from Wales founded the Knoxville Iron Works but as with the many nationalities, their descendants live on in the melting pot which defines this great nation.
So whatever your ancestry, Happy St David’s Day, and God bless America!
Francis grew up in London, England, and moved to Richmond Hill in 2009. She can be contacted at email@example.com or www.lesleyfrancispr.com