As last weekend was St. David’s Day, we decided that it’d be nice to go somewhere to mark this day that celebrates Wales’s patron saint. I’m not sure why, but I just thought it would be fun to go out and have some nice time together and take in some of the events that were going on locally. In a lot of ways, I’m not all that bothered about saints’ days. However, I do like to feel in touch with the traditions that are associated with this land that has become home to me over the last seven years.
Initially, we’d thought of going to a village called Bala where the inhabitants were seeking to establish a world record for the largest ever Welsh cake (…more about these Welsh delicacies later!). I really liked the idea of witnessing this fun challenge, although Bala isn’t always the easiest place to get to. There was a story time for babies event at 10am that sounded great, but it also sounded too early for a Saturday morning given that Bala is over an hour’s drive away from where we live.
Bala is a quaint village of about 3000 inhabitants that I identify with in some ways as a Scotsman as it is located close to a lake (Llyn Tegid) that is reputedly home to Teggie, a Welsh cousin of the Loch Ness Monster. It is, however, not always the easiest place to get to. I remember travelling there via public transport for the National Eisteddfod (a major annual Welsh language cultural festival) in 2009. I went by bus, travelling from Menai Bridge to Bangor, Bangor to Betws, Betws to Corwen and Corwen to Bala. On the way back, I got a bus from Bala to Wrexham, a train from Wrexham to Bangor and then walked from Bangor to Menai Bridge. For those of you to whom that succession of Welsh place names means little, what I did was kind of like travelling from London to New York via the moon.
As it felt like even driving to Bala could turn out to be a bit of a trek, we considered going to Llandudno where a St. David’s Day pancake race was going to be taking place on the sea front. The night before, I was actually considering entering although I wasn’t certain that I would be able to just turn up with a frying pan on the day and compete. I’d have felt a bit silly if we’d travelled all the way to Llandudno with our frying pan only to be told that we needed to have registered in advance and couldn’t register there and then, be given a pancake and then run from the war memorial to the bandstand and back again. Looking back, maybe we should have gone with a frying pan and our own pancake so as we weren’t relying on the organisers to provide the pancake that they had promised all competitors. But if our pancake was different from the organisers’ ones, would that have been an unfair advantage that could have stopped us from competing?
In the end, we didn’t go to either Bala or Llandudno. We eventually made it out to have lunch at a cafe between Bangor and Caernarfon that was due to host a Welsh language St. David’s Day comedy event that evening where people were invited to tell jokes in Welsh for three minutes in order to win a prize and raise money for a local charity. Given that I’ve been reading up on Welsh jokes for kids recently, perhaps I should aim to compete in the future (…I can sense the heckling coming even before completing this sentence!). Our son seemed to enjoy this little trip out and sampling a bit of mummy and daddy’s food, even though he did drop or throw quite a bit of it on the floor.
After lunch, we headed to Caernarfon Castle as it was one of several local tourist attractions that was open for free to mark St. David’s Day. I’m not really sure what our son made of Caernarfon Castle, especially as it was a bit wet and cloudy. He did make quite a few happy little noises in the car on the way back home, so I’m guessing that he quite enjoyed it.
In some ways, I did wonder what the point was of doing something to celebrate a day that probably didn’t mean anything to our ten month old son. However, I do hope that he’ll grow up to feel part of the area in which he lives and also find aspects of the local traditions and culture that mean something to him.
We may not have seen the five foot wide Welsh cake that was made in Bala or witnessed (or participated in) the St. David’s Day pancake race in Llandudno but we did have a nice family day out. Oh, and I made some Welsh cakes myself the next day. Here’s the recipe I used for anyone who’s interested. They may not have been massive record breakers but, like our weekend showed, sometimes it’s the small things that count.
What traditions and cultural events do you like sharing with your family and friends? Are there any occaions that stand out as being particularly important where you live? Please feel free to share your views in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+.
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