by Theo Davies-Lewis
Monday, 1
March 2021
Idea
11:05

Boris should make St. David’s Day a national holiday

It's the perfect opportunity to appease an agitated part of the UK
by Theo Davies-Lewis
We cannot take our heritage or indeed our culture for granted any longer. Credit: Getty

Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd. Do the little things in life. Saint David’s most famous maxim will be uttered across the world today, as the global Welsh remember their patron saint. Saint David’s Day, or Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant, is celebrated in a variety of ways — with singing in schools and traditional Welsh dress — but fifteen hundred years after Dewi’s death, 1 March still lacks official status in Wales.

It’s not for the want of trying. Countless petitions have been started over the years calling on the UK Government to make the occasion a bank holiday, since powers to create such occasions in Wales are retained by Westminster. Tony Blair, who was apparently so keen to recognise the distinctiveness of each nation around these isles in 1997, rejected a petition to make Saint David’s Day a bank holiday ten years later. The issue has been a fleeting fantasy for Welsh patriots since.


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Now seems like a good time to reprise the issue. Recent weeks have shown how cruel those in positions of power are toward the Welsh, after all. We cannot take our heritage and indeed our culture for granted any longer, and asserting national identity within the context of our place in Britain is a noble and meaningful cause.

But there is also the opportunity that this situation presents the Prime Minister. There is arguably no better chance for Boris Johnson, who is toying with his strategy to save our nation of ‘equals’, to test his ‘love bomb’ tactics on an increasingly agitated part of the UK. Creating a bank holiday would also likely bring economic benefits to Wales in the post-Covid world, adding to the already skilful global marketing tactics we have to champion Welsh businesses around the start of March. What’s not to like, Prime Minister?

Remember that gifting the Welsh a national holiday on 1 March is what we want too. Our own politicians in the-then National Assembly even voted for it in 2000. A later poll in 2006 revealed that almost ninety per cent in Wales supported the calls, while just over two thirds were prepared to sacrifice a different bank holiday to do so. With consistent rising support for devolution, provision for the Welsh language and the success of our cultural festivals each year, I suspect the figure is now much higher.

Not for the first time, the Welsh look to their Celtic cousins in Ireland and Scotland — whose days to celebrate their patron saints are awarded the coveted public holiday status — with slight jealousy and depression. We are sometimes a melancholic people, of course, but we also have reason to be. What kind-of nation are we if we want to commemorate our patron Saint but aren’t able to?

We are too late to make this change in 2021. But how about it for 2022, Boris? My petition today calls for the UK Government to introduce a national holiday for Wales on Saint David’s Day from next year. It is long overdue, and necessary. You can make a real difference by doing a little thing — just as Dewi told us on his deathbed — by signing it today.

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Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago

Hadn’t we better check whether St David had any links with slavery first?

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
1 year ago

It was a policy of Jeremy Corbyn’s to make the Saint’s Days of all four UK Nations Public Holidays across the UK.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Indeed it was. Saint Lenin, Saint Stalin, Saint Mao and Saint Chavez.

Last edited 1 year ago by Fraser Bailey
Mark H
Mark H
1 year ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Which is actually bizzarre given his clear disengagement from organized religion (that only struck me now, reading your post).
But regardless of who suggests them, this kind of public holiday is pretty useless to those of us who work, because it doesn’t provide extra time off – it just reduces the flexibility with which we can take holidays.
Or, if it is supposed to be on top of the statutory leave requirement? That effectively reduces income by reducing the number of productive days in the year.
[Edit: the other problem here is that the UK has the wrong saints – we need pick some new ones based on when they were born: in summer, or at least late spring]
[2nd edit: and while we’re at it, we can ensure that they aren’t pre-claimed by any identity group – except Catholic, of course]

Last edited 1 year ago by Mark H
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark H

Exactly. Bank holidays are a damned nuisance unless you work in the public sector or for a large company. The last thing we need is more of them.

Eloise Burke
Eloise Burke
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

As an American, I do not have a dog in this fight. But I agree with the sentiment. Can’t you declare a holiday without closing the banks?

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
1 year ago
Reply to  Eloise Burke

The banks don’t need too much persuasion to close for the day over here Eloise…They close in an afternoon before anyone finishes work and don’t open at weekends. As I believe you Americans may say “Go figure”

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I always look forward to them – occasions for at least some of the nation to take a breather together – families get time to travel to see each other (in non-lockdown times). Admittedly, a lot of that aspect has gone given 24/7 nature of modern capitalism, the gig economy and destruction of Trades Unions who could actually protect the rights of workers to a life outside work.

Mark H
Mark H
1 year ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Bank holiday travel – oh, the pain!

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark H

With often little gain

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark H

That’s the crazy kind of multi-culturalist he is. Even when he disagrees with your fundamental beliefs in a creationist deity and it’s associated exploitative human hierarchies he supports your right to a day off.

Mark H
Mark H
1 year ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

I already have the right to a day off. As things stand, if I had a patron saint, I could take their day off… but I don’t want to be forced to take the same day off as everyone else because the only sane thing one can do on a bank holiday is stay at home.
Which is actually the fundamental issue of Corbyn like thinking – “here is something that I think is good, so I’m going to force everyone to do what I think is good”.
I had 20 years of that when I was growing up – it was called Apartheid.

kevin ward
kevin ward
1 year ago

Appeasement does not work.

Jack Walker
Jack Walker
1 year ago

Public and bank holidays may have been useful in days gone by, but now all employees get paid holidays, so no need for yet more days off.

Jack Walker
Jack Walker
1 year ago

The author says ‘It is long overdue, and necessary”, it is neither.
The impact of this proposal will reduce productivity in Wales to even lower levels, if that’s possible. It’s no wonder that Wales struggles to attract new businesses and inward investment, it puts too many obstacles in the way and another public holiday would be yet another nail in the coffin for Wales.

Louise Henson
Louise Henson
1 year ago

Just looked at the petition. Eleven have signed. Not completely convinced that is an overwhelming endorsement.

Graeme Laws
Graeme Laws
1 year ago

Just who has been cruel to the Welsh, and how? You can’t make bald statements like this and be taken seriously.

Dorothy Slater
Dorothy Slater
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme Laws

As a descendent of the Welsh, I would point out that out of the dozens of languages now being heard, celebrated and taught in American schools – ie Spanish – Welsh is NOT among them. Personally, I feel “seriously” discriminated against and am forming a WLM protest as soon as it stops raining.

SUSAN GRAHAM
SUSAN GRAHAM
1 year ago
Reply to  Dorothy Slater

The Welsh language is of no use to anybody other than a small settlement in Patagonia, hardly anybody in Wales speaks Welsh even though it is compulsory for children at school but something they drop at first chance. The Welsh government waste millions in printing every document sent to homes is in duplicate – both languages. I am English but live in Wales and I have not missed the point of your comment ! Welsh children would be better served to be taught Spanish or Mandarin. Sunny now good luck with your protest !

Kathryn Richards
Kathryn Richards
1 year ago
Reply to  SUSAN GRAHAM

Irony doesn’t always come across well in writing.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
1 year ago
Reply to  Dorothy Slater

You go girl!