The western part of Britain is occupied by a country called Wales. Most people know it from the title of the heir apparent of the British throne, who is traditionally named Prince of Wales. The tradition dates back to 1301 when Edward I proclaimed his son, the first English Prince of Wales. He did it after defeating and killing Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last native Prince of Wales, in the Battle of Orwin Bridge in 1282.
It marked the end of Wales as an independent country. Ever since, each heir apparent was invested as Prince of Wales. The current holder of the title, Prince Charles, was invested in 1969. He spent three months in Wales prior to the event, studying the language, customs, and culture. During the ceremony, he gave a speech and answered questions in both English and Welsh, a gesture that made him highly popular among Welsh.
Wales is a small country, with an area of 20,779 km2 (8,023 sq. mi) and about 3.1 million people. Throughout its history, it has been dominated by its more powerful neighbors to the east, the English. However, in recent decades, there has been a strong revival movement, aiming at bringing back as many traditional Welsh customs as possible. Even welsh language has been brought back from the edge of extinction. Today, more than 700,000 people use it throughout the United Kingdom.
The revival movement has brought back many interesting Welsh traditions. Some of them are common knowledge. Others are peculiar and indigenous to Wales. Despite being a popular tourist destination, not all of them are well-known outside the country. Below, we have listed six of them that essential for anyone visiting this beautiful corner of Britain.
For centuries, Wales has been dominated by England in every sense of the world, except one. Rugby. Sure, they can lose a game or two, but on the field, they have an equal chance of winning, and that is something Welsh people aren’t accustomed to when confronting English. Perhaps the legendary rugby player Phil Bennett best said in his famous pre-game pep talk to his team: “Look what these bastards have done to Wales. They’ve taken our coal, our water, our steel. They buy our homes and live in them for a fortnight every year. What have they given us? Absolutely nothing. We’ve been exploited, raped, controlled, and punished by the English – and that’s who you are playing this afternoon.”
Don’t call the British
Technically speaking, Welsh are British, being a part of Great Britain and all. However, nobody asked them when Great Britain was formed, and they heartily dislike it. Welsh tend to think of the British as just another name for English and reject any notion of it. At best, Welsh will frown at you if you call them British, or you may even get a stern talking to. At worst… Well, let’s not go there. Just don’t call them British.
Saint David’s Day
Saint David is the patron saint of Welsh. He was from an aristocratic family from south Wales, and he lived in the 6th century. Saint David is canonized by Pope Callixtus II in the 12th century and is celebrated on March 1, the date of his death. It is one of the biggest holidays in Wales, with almost all cities and towns organizing parades. Traditional outfits, including shawls, red cloaks, striped flannel, and black hats, can be seen everywhere.
Another important part is flowers, namely daffodils. Everybody is carrying them as a part of the celebration. That is why Saint David’s day is perfect for sending your Welsh friends some flowers through abcFlora if you can’t join them for this special day. If you want to try some traditional Welsh cuisine, this is probably the best day for it, as almost every restaurant will serve Welsh rarebit, cawl, and roast lamb.
Eisteddfod is one of the oldest Welsh traditions. The origins of eisteddfod are somewhat disputed, but some scholars suggest that it has its roots in Celtic bardic tradition. What is known that the first Eisteddfod was held in 1176, on the court of Rhys ap Gruffydd? In essence, it is a festival of poetry, music, literature, and performance. The winners in each category receive prizes.
For instance, on eisteddfod held in Caerwys in 1568, the best harpist won a small silver harp, the best fiddler a small silver crwth, the best singer a silver tongue, and the best poet a tiny silver chair. Today, there are several eisteddfods held annually in various parts of Wales. The most important one is the National Eisteddfod of Wales. It is the largest festival of competitive music and poetry in Europe, with around 150,000 visitors each year.
No Sheep Jokes
The Welshmen have heard everyone in existence. There isn’t a sheep joke you can tell that will make them smile. It is true that there is probably more sheep than people in Wales and that a large portion of the country’s industry is based on sheep and sheep products.
And the national cuisine is largely dependent on lamb, sheep cheese, and other sheep-related food. Still, after centuries of hearing jokes about sheep, enough is enough. Telling a sheep joke is probably the fastest way to become unpopular in the company of Welshmen. Well, that and calling them British or, God forbid, English.
Don’t Complain About the Rain
Like in most of Britain, it rains a lot in Wales. Snowdonia, for example, has 270 wet days a year. On average, it gets more than 3 meters of rainfall annually. That is a lot of rain by anyone’s standards. The reason for this is the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean. Jet streams bring in wet weather from the west, which gets dumped over Wales. So, for the people who live in Wales, rain is a fact of life.
It can’t be fought or defeated, so you might as well get used to it. It is common to see people riding bikes in the rain or waiting in lines during a downpour. Fortunately, an umbrella can always be found if you were careless enough to go out without one. Just ask in any shop or a pub, and you will be provided with one.