Saturday 27 February 2021

Three Hundred Sixty Five

Hello Friends!

A doll dressed in hand knitted traditional Welsh costume

Tomorrow {depending on when you read this}, February 28th, marks a full year since I last attended a social gathering.  Exactly year ago on that day, the Annual St David's Day Eisteddfod took place in our local City Hall, and later that evening some of us gathered at a friend's house for a pleasant evening of convivial company and cheerful conversation.  How little we knew of what was just around the corner.

For those of you who don't know, an Eisteddfod is a cultural event when the people of Wales gather to take part in a variety of competitions, mostly poetry, song, and folk dance, but in recent times all manner of things, including art and craft of all kinds and, at least in our little city, a variety of baked goods, are also presented for judging.

Our Eisteddfod is held as close to Saint David's Day, on March 1st, as can be managed, as there is an extensive programme of events for St David's Day, beside the Eisteddfod, that happen around our village sized city over four, or even five, days. People now come from far and wide, to take part, or to simply view the stage events of the Eisteddfod, or to see the other celebrations as they occur. The organisers want everyone to have as much opportunity as possible to see and attend as many things as they can. It's a time of celebrating Welsh culture, learning, and fun; as well as the Eisteddfod, there are church services; Gymanfa Ganu; pilgrim walks; markets selling local produce; the serving of traditional Welsh refreshments; a Best Cawl competition; a Best Dressed Window competition; Twmpath; concerts and more.

On a national level, the most important events at any Eisteddfod are the Chairing of the Bard  who has written the best awdl in strict Cynghanedd meter on a predetermined theme, and the Crowning of the Bard who has written the best Pryddest or free verse poem on a similarly predetermined theme, and the award of the Prose Medal.

I have competed in Urdd Youth Eisteddfodau in Welsh learners recitation and Parti Recorder {I still play a recorder}.

In our local Eisteddfod, however, the prizes are slightly different.  For First, Second, and Third place in each competition, a traditional Eisteddfod bag is awarded.  These are made from locally sourced Welsh tapestry and wool flannel by a team of volunteers.  For the highest number of points achieved in the cookery competition, the winner receives a beautifully engraved presentation wooden rolling pin.  A commemorative shield is awarded to the person gaining the highest number of points overall in the art and craft section.  Finally, a small, model chair is awarded to, and kept by, the person who gains the highest number of points across all competitions on the day.

Here are a few snaps from the programme to give you an idea of the diverse range of activities up for prizes.

As you can see, the word is definitely "diverse"!  All stage competitions, except dancing, have a Welsh and English speakers component, so it's no wonder they start early with a short break for a snack lunch, followed by a late finish.

All entrants submit craft three days before and cookery the day before so judging those is done in advance.  All entrants participate under a nom de plume, known only to the Secretary, who is responsible for collecting and holding all entry forms.

This year's competition should have taken place yesterday, February 26, but is now deferred until 2022, when it is hoped it can go ahead as planned.  The theme is "Holidays".  While I don't take part in the stage competitions, I do have lots of ideas for the craft competitions!  Maybe I'll enter a plate of Welsh Cakes, who knows?  I've got time to practice.  Mind, I'd be up against two of my neighbours and very good friends.  Yikes!  Both are previous winners, so quite a challenge!

Welsh Cakes

How long ago it all seems, but later that evening, a few of us gathered at my friend's house for drinks and nibbles.  There were two topics of conversation that prevailed.  The Eisteddfod and who won what, and the You Know What, which was just starting to get more than a little bit frightening.  We had two present who had just returned from a fortnight on Gran Canaria where an outbreak had just been declared.  I suddenly found myself social distancing before it was a thing.  Who would have thought what the coming days and weeks would bring, and how it would run into a year and more.

March 1st is Dydd Gŵyl Dewi, Saint David's Day, so I do hope you will pop back for more on that important day in Wales as I have more to share with you on Welsh tradition.  The tea kettle is on, and there'll be Welsh Cakes, fresh and hot off the griddle, with good, Welsh butter too!

Until next time,
Stay safe and stay well
Deborah xo

Sunday 14 February 2021

The Feast Day of Saint Valentine

 Hello Friends!

Happy Saint Valentine's Day, or as friends might say to friends, Happy Galentine's Day {celebrated yesterday, but who's counting?}

Today, Valentine's Day is synonymous with couples and courtly love, but did you know that Saint Valentine was a 3rd century Roman saint who's martyrdom is marked on February 14th?

According to his hagiography, he was a Christian priest, possibly a bishop, who ministered to persecuted Christians of the Roman Empire.  One of the legends behind his hagiography indicates that the night before his martyrdom, he wrote a letter to the daughter of the judge Asterius, which was signed "from your Valentine" which is, allegedly, the point from which romantic missives sprang.

Another account would have us believe he cut out paper hearts to distribute to persecuted Christians, giving rise to the heart shape now associated with the celebration of this day.

Yet another account has us believe the letter signed "from your Valentine" was sent to the daughter of his gaoler, having healed her from blindness.

However the celebration of the Patron Saint of Love reflects in your life, whether romantically or through friendship, the most important focus is love.  Love that we should show for all our fellow humans; love for all the countless and various forms of life that shares this wonderful planet ; and love for the Earth.

Celebrating for many will be strange this year, and here we are on day four of an endless battering of gale force winds, with rain, snow, and ice, along with freezing cold temperatures, so I celebrate you, my friends, with love, nibbling on a large bar of my favourite white chocolate and strawberry Divine chocolate and sip from a pod of hot, rich, dark hot chocolate. The television provides our entertainment in the form of "Pride and Prejudice", the one with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

Until next time
Stay Safe and Stay Well
Deborah xo