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Grab a Leek and Celebrate the Welsh Way

leeks St. Davids DayHappy St. David’s Day!

Never heard of him? You should. This vegetarian, peace-loving, ice bath aficionado is a hard-core saint who was related to the legendary King Arthur. And the whole of Wales loves him as its patron.

March 1 is David’s official day and it’s been celebrated as the national day of Wales since the 12th Century. Not much written history exists about David but, like most ancient saints, there are plenty of legends about him.

One is that he was born in the 6th Century on a cliff top during a fierce storm, a nephew of Arthur. David became a priest and supposedly performed several miraculous healings during his life. Legend says that during a battle against the Saxons, David advised his soldiers to wear leeks in their hats so that they could easily be distinguished from their enemies. Now the leek is an emblem of Wales.

dafDavid is said to have lived 100 years. During that time he traveled extensively throughout the British Isles and beyond. He was a bishop and founded 12 monasteries. It is said he practiced self-penance by wading up to his neck into ice water and reciting Scripture. He was canonized in 1120 and at least 50 churches in South Wales alone bear his name.

Want to celebrate with the Welsh? Choose a leek. You can wear it, eat it (recipes below), or put it under your pillow so that you will dream of your future husband.

If you want to be an authentic follower of David then you’ll opt for the vegetarian Welsh Rarebit (http://britishfood.about.com/od/start3/r/leekwelshrbit.htm). But if you’re a meat eater, you can chop up that leek and cook up some hearty Beef Leek and Mushroom Stew (http://britishfood.about.com/od/adrecipes/r/beefstewmush.htm).

Either way, a quick swim after dinner in icy waters might make you appreciate St. David more than just about anything.

Claddagh: A Symbol of Everlasting Love

It’s nearing St. Valentine’s Day and love abounds. Chocolate, wine and roses are popular gifts for a reason, but a true romantic will go straight for the heart with a gift of the Claddagh ring.

The ring represents one of Ireland’s loveliest traditions. No one is completely certain who invented the original Claddagh ring, but both stories are beautiful.

One tells of a young widow who returned to Ireland, used her wealth to invest in her home town of Galway, fell in love and remarried an Irishman, then was rewarded for her faithfulness and good deeds when an eagle flew by and dropped the first Claddagh ring in her lap.

The second story tells of Richard Joyce, a fisherman from the town of Claddagh, who was kidnapped, torn from his true love, and taken to northern Africa. While there he became a goldsmith apprentice and created the ring’s distinctive design. Years later, he was freed and returned to Ireland – ring in hand – to marry his true love.

The endearing symbol is two hands clasping a heart topped with a crown, symbolizing love, loyalty and fidelity.

There’s a specific way to wear a Claddagh ring:

  • Single and available? Wear the ring on the right hand with the bottom of the heart pointing toward the fingertips.
  • In a relationship? Keep it on your right hand, but point the bottom of the heart toward your wrist.
  • Engaged? Move the ring to your left hand, bottom of the heart pointing to your fingertips.
  • Married and committed forever? Wear it on your left hand with the bottom of the heart pointing toward your wrist.

 

On this Valentine’s Day, may you find someone worthy of your own Claddagh ring. Take heed the words of the beloved Irish author Oscar Wilde, “Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.”

Claddagh Rings

St. Brigid and her Cross

St_-Brigid-of-KildareHappy St. Brigid’s Day! In Ireland, it marks the first day of spring and the new farm year. It also honors the Patroness of Ireland – the beloved St. Brigid.

The saint lived from 451 – 525 AD. Her long life was one of influence and importance, although she lived in an age when women were considered completely subservient.

Brigid was a very pious Christian who founded several monasteries and traveled constantly teaching about Jesus. Even today, many miracles are attributed to her intercession. She was regarded as the best cook and ale maker in all of Ireland and it is said she never turned the hungry away.

At one time Brigid was ministering to a dying pagan chieftain. In her zeal to explain the life of Christ to the man, she pulled nearby rushes and wove a cross as she spoke to him. Legend says the chieftain repented and was baptized before his death due to Brigid’s prayer on his behalf.

As with all things Irish, celebrations mean traditions. In Brigid’s honor, the story of her cross is often commemorated in rough crosses made like hers from grasses and rushes, sculptures carved from wood and stone, and precious jewelry crafted in her honor. [insert link to Celtic Ranch St. Brigid’s Cross photos]

St. Brigid’s crosses still hang today in many Irish homes and around many Irish necks in the hopes that the Patroness continues her prayers on behalf of the people she loved.