On being Welsh

Today, March 1, 2023, is St. David’s Day. Like St. Patrick’s day, but not. Welsh people don’t wear green or shamrocks or hunt for leprechauns. I don’t really know what the Irish traditions are but I do know it involves wearing green. The Welsh celebrate their patron saint by wearing a type of onion. Weird huh?

On St. David’s Day, Welsh women wear a daffodil and men wear a leek. I’m thankful not to have to wear a stinky vegetable. Daffodils are in the same family as onions, maybe that’s why they chose them as the national emblem of Wales. Don’t ever eat them by mistake, you won’t live to tell the tale. I have a small daffodil brooch which I will wear all day today. No one will notice and certainly no one I know, apart from my mum, will join in.

Why a leek? Some say, in the sixth Century, before a big battle, a Celtic monk named David, (later Saint David) convinced the Welsh soldiers to fasten leeks to their helmets so they would be able to tell friend from foe. Others say it was King Cadwaladr of Gwynedd who told his men to wear leeks. Still others think it may date back to the Welsh druids. They believed leeks could cure common colds, alleviate pain during childbirth, ward against wounds in battle, protect against lightning strikes and keep evil spirits at bay. My own grandmother made a poultice of leeks for chest infections. Stinky yet effective. Whichever story is true, it’s very like the Welsh to have more than one. We are a patriotic bunch. The National anthem is hardly ever sung without tears.

I visited Wales in 2019, with my husband. We stayed near Cardiff Arms Park on a weekend when Wales was playing rugby against England. The streets were packed with people wearing red rugby jumpers, scarves, hats and even full body daffodil costumes. I had no idea it was on so we didn’t have tickets. We went to visit Cardiff Castle instead. We could hear the crowd roaring and bursting into song. I almost felt sorry for the English team. The Welsh sing at the rugby. I could have finished that sentence after the word ‘sing.’

I didn’t become a naturalised Australian until 2019. It was well overdue. Our family came here in 1963. To become an Australian, I didn’t have to sing the national anthem or do anything terribly patriotic. I spent months memorizing a bunch of stuff about Australian history, Federation, Parliament, and even the National Anthem as I only knew the first verse. None of which was queried. It was a bit of a let down really. They did give me a show bag with a few Australian stickers.

I haven’t met many patriotic Aussies, at least, not like the Welsh. When I asked my husband if he knew the National Anthem he said: ‘Girt by sea?’ When I prompted him a little he remembered the title was Advance Australia Fair. To be fair, he sang God save the Queen when he was in school.

Even though I can say I am an official Australian, today I am Welsh. I am wearing a daffodil and remembering a childhood spent in the mountains of Snowdonia. Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus — Happy St. David’s Day. I feel the ‘hiraeth’ as I think of the mountains and the valleys of Wales, the land of my father’s. Tomorrow I will be an Aussie again.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s