St. David's Day

St. David's Day

01 March 2013

March 1. Saint David's (Dewi Sant) Day. And pretty much a high holy day in our household, marking the beginning of the gardening season, as well as a culinary excuse to enjoy leeks in any and all their forms. (And if you don't know what I'm talking about, check out the fight between Pistol and Fluellen in Shakespeare's Henry V.)

Unenthusiastic daffodils
Unenthusiastic daffodils

The fact that Henry V is arguably my favorite Shakespeare play is not the only reason I celebrate the feast of a quiet saint known best for founding numerous monastic settlements. Unlike his wilder Irish brethren, who voyaged to the new world and travelled back in time to midwife the infant Jesus, the miracle for which St. David is best known for occurred while he was preaching in the town of Brefi: A white dove descended onto his shoulder, while the ground beneath him rose to elevate him - leading the folklorist John Davies to comment one could not "conceive of any miracle more superfluous" in hilly Wales.

Unenthusiastic garden
Unenthusiastic garden

Even worse, unlike his more convivial Irish brethren, St. David is celebrated for his abstemiousness. Forbidding beer or wine in his monastery, he exhorted his monks to "Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us."

Enthusiastic snowdrops
Enthusiastic snowdrops

Still, St. David had his moments. His most famous legendary exploit was ordering Welsh soldiers engaged in a battle with Saxons in a leek field to identify themselves to each other by wearing leeks on their helmets - which is why the leek has become his personal symbol. The daffodil, the national flower of Wales, is also considered St. David's flower - largely because it is believed to first bloom on his day. (Other theories ascribe this association to the fact that leeks, Cenhinen, and daffodils, Cenhinen Pedr (literally "Peter's leek"), have similar names in Welsh.)

Optimistic (decidedly) primrose
Optimistic (decidedly) primrose

Whatever the case, our daffodils look distinctly unenthused. As does the garden as a whole.

Optimistic (but young) hellebore
Optimistic (but young) hellebore

Yet the signs of spring are there for those who look for them. The snowdrops are now blooming in abundance, while the hellebores are off to a strong start. And, to our surprise, even a brave primrose was willing to risk a sudden freeze.

All of them signs that it's time to start picking up fallen branches and raking out the beds. "Doing the little things" in St. David's words, that mean spring is finally here, no matter what the groundhog might have said.

© - Erica Obey
Photos © - George Baird