Dathlu Gŵyl Ddewi | Celebrating St David’s Day

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Ac ystyried ei statws fel nawddsant Cymru, nid yw Dewi Sant yn gofyn llawer gennym fel cenedl. ‘Gwnewch y pethau bychain a welsoch ac a glywsoch gennyf i’ yw ei eiriau enwocaf. Cofnodwyd y rheini yn ei fuchedd – neu hanes ei fywyd – a gyfieithwyd o’r Lladin i’r Gymraeg oddeutu 1325. Yn rhyfedd iawn, nid oes dim sy’n cyfateb i’r gair ‘bychan’ yn y Lladin, felly rhaid mai rhywbeth a ychwanegwyd wrth drosi i’r Gymraeg yw’r gair hwnnw. Efallai fod efelychu’r pethau bychain – yn hytrach na’r pethau mawr – yn llai o her i Gymry’r Oesoedd Canol. Nid oedd Dewi yn esiampl hawdd i’w ddilyn, cofiwch, ac yntau, meddai ei fuchedd, wedi goroesi ar ddim namyn bara a dŵr gydol ei oes. 

Y chweched ganrif oedd cyfnod Dewi, a byddwn heddiw yn ei gysylltu’n arbennig â Thyddewi, lle y mae eglwys gadeiriol hardd wedi ei chysegru iddo. Ond mae eglwysi yn ei enw i’w cael ledled Cymru a thros y ffin hefyd. Un ohonynt yw Llanddewi Brefi ger Tregaron, lle y cyflawnodd Dewi un o’i wyrthiau enwocaf. I sicrhau bod pawb yn ei glywed mewn cyfarfod eglwysig pwysig, cododd y ddaear o dan ei draed a ffurfio bryncyn newydd sbon. Ond fel y dywedodd y diweddar Dr John Davies, o ystyried natur tirwedd Ceredigion, ‘prin y gellid dychmygu gwyrth fwy di-alw-amdani’! 

Mae dathlu Gŵyl Ddewi yn arfer ers canrifoedd, wrth gwrs. Ond mae ein dathliadau ni heddiw i gryn raddau yn gynnyrch cymuned Gymraeg Llundain yn yr ail ganrif ar bymtheg a’r ddeunawfed ganrif. Byddai’r Cymry yno’n dathlu’r ŵyl yn fwy brwd na’u cymheiriaid yng Nghymru. Ond mae’r dyddiadurwr enwog Samuel Pepys yn cofnodi yn 1667 fod rhai Llundeinwyr yn nodi’r diwrnod mewn ffordd lai parchus o lawer: ‘I do observe, it being St. David’s day, the picture of a man dressed like a Welchman, hanging by the neck upon one of the poles that stand out at the top of one of the merchants’ houses’.  

Mae ein dull o ddathlu Gŵyl Ddewi yn sicr wedi newid dros amser. I David Lloyd George ac eraill dros ganrif yn ôl, roedd y genhinen draddodiadol yn symbol rhy wladaidd – a drewllyd! – i fod yn addas ar gyfer dathlu dydd y nawddsant. Aethant ati i honni mai camgymeriad oedd y canrifoedd o ddathlu â’r genhinen, ac mai arddangos y genhinen Bedr harddach a mwy persawrus oedd y peth iawn i’w wneud. Di-sail hollol oedd hynny, wrth gwrs. Ond dyna sut mae traddodiadau’n cael eu creu! 

Felly dathlwch Ŵyl Ddewi ym mha ffordd bynnag sy’n eich gwneud chi’n hapus – ac eithrio crogi delw o Gymro o bolyn ar eich tŷ, wrth gwrs! 


Considering his status as the patron saint of Wales, Saint David does not ask much from us as a nation. ‘Do the little things that you have seen and heard from me’ are his most famous words. These were recorded in a vita – a history of his life – which was translated from Latin into Welsh around 1325. Strangely enough, there is nothing corresponding to the word ‘little’ in Latin, so it must be that the word was added when translating into Welsh. Maybe doing the small things — rather than the big things — was less of a challenge for the medieval Welsh. And to be fair, David was not an easy example to follow, as his vita says that he survived on nothing but bread and water throughout his entire life.  

David lived in the sixth century, and today we associate him particularly with St Davids, where a beautiful cathedral is dedicated to him. But there are churches in his name all over Wales, and over the border as well. One of them is Llanddewi Brefi near Tregaron, where David performed one of his most famous miracles. To ensure that everyone heard him at an important church meeting, the ground rose from under his feet to form a hillock. As the late Dr. John Davies memorably put it, one can hardly ‘conceive of any miracle more superfluous’ in that part of Wales than the creation of a new hill! 

Celebrating St. David’s Day has been a tradition for centuries, of course. But our celebrations today are to a large extent derived from London’s Welsh-speaking community in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The exiled Welshmen and women would celebrate the day with more enthusiasm than their peers back in Wales. But the famous diarist Samuel Pepys notes in 1667 that some Londoners marked the day in a much less respectful way: ‘I do observe, it being St. David’s day, the picture of a man dressed like a Welchman, hanging by the neck upon one of the poles that stand out at the top of one of the merchants’ houses’. 

Our way of celebrating St David’s Day has certainly changed over time. For David Lloyd George and others over a century ago, the traditional leek was too rustic a symbol – and also too smelly! – to be suitable for celebrating the patron saint's day. So, they claimed that centuries of celebrating with leeks were all in error, and that the right thing to do was to elevate the more beautiful and fragrant daffodil. That was completely unfounded, of course. But that’s how traditions are created! 

So, celebrate St. David’s Day in whatever way makes you happy – except for hanging an effigy of a Welshman from a pole on your house, of course! 

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