Serif in Education

The Meaning Behind a Symbol

Happy St David’s Day! As always at this time of year I’ve noticed lots of people donning the good old daffodil. It got me thinking about the fact that while I of course know the daffodil is the national flower of Wales, I’m not entirely sure why. I doubt I’m the only one, so thought I’d better do some research!

It turns out that daffodils became the national flower of Wales by accident! The Welsh for leek, which is the original national emblem, is Cenhine, while the Welsh for daffodil is Cenhinen Pedr. Over the years they became confused until the daffodil was adopted as a second emblem of Wales.

Seeing as it’s a big day for Wales and while we’re on the subject, I thought I’d look at what the other symbols of Wales actually mean.

The Leek

According to legend, on the eve of a battle with the Saxons, St David (patron saint of Wales), advised the Britons to wear leeks in their hats so that they could be distinguished from the enemy, which happened to help secure a great victory. Today Welsh people around the world wear leeks on St David’s Day.

The Flag

The infamous Red Dragon was granted official status in 1959, but the dragon itself has been associated with Wales for centuries. It has been suggested it is the oldest national flag still in use, and that it was used by King Arthur and other ancient Celtic leaders.

The Harp

Regarded as the national instrument of Wales, by the end of the 18th century, the triple harp was known as the ‘Welsh harp’ on account of its popularity in Wales. The harp has been used through the years as an accompaniment to folk singing and dancing and also as a solo instrument. Prince Charles appoints a Welsh Royal Harpist on a scholarship programme every year!

Prince of Wales Feathers

The Crest of three ostrich plumes and the motto “Ich Dien” (I serve) were adopted by Edward the Black Prince at the Battle of Crecy. Edward became Prince of Wales in 1343, and was a popular leader; a quarter of Edward’s troops were composed of Welsh archers and spearmen. The crest is used today in royal heraldry and the feathers still adorn the badge of the National Rugby Union team of Wales.

It’s funny how we associate certain emblems or symbols with a specific place or day, but we don’t often know why. Test your knowledge with the following…

Did you know that?

The Rose has been the national symbol of England since the time of the Wars of the Roses (civil wars 1455-1485) between the royal house of Lancaster (whose emblem was a red rose) and the royal house of York (whose emblem was a white rose).

The national flower of Scotland is the thistle, a prickly-leaved purple flower which was first used in the 15th century as a symbol of defence. The Scottish Bluebell is also considered as a flower of Scotland.

The Shamrock is the national flower of Ireland because St Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Trinity. He used it in his sermons to represent how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same entity.

As a task for your pupils, why don’t you ask them to think about the things they associate with a particular place; the place they were born perhaps or their favourite holiday destination? What images appear in their mind? Using DrawPlus they could design a new flag for that place, or a flower of their very own to symbolise that place!

We’d love to see some of their ideas; don’t forget you can post comments below, tweet us @SerifEducation or email!