St. Piran’s Day is the national day of Cornwall and is celebrated annually on the 5th of March. St. Piran is said to have been Saint Ciaran of Saigir; however, this is often disputed. St. Piran was outcast from Ireland and subsequently was sentenced to death by drowning. As the legend goes, he is said to have survived and crossed the Irish Sea to land in what is now known as Perranporth. St Piran’s day has its beginnings in tin mining when the “tinners” would have a day off and observe the patron saint. Since then, it has evolved into Cornwall’s national day; much akin to St. David’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day, which are celebrated by Cornwall’s Celtic siblings.
The day is celebrated in several ways, including the pilgrimage to the site of St Piran’s Church in the sand dunes of Perranzabuloe and Perranporth. Also, one may often find recreations of Saint Piran’s treacherous journey across the Irish sea being carried out throughout Cornwall. These traditions are not only carried out in the small towns and villages of Cornwall but as far afield as Breton and California, as St. Piran is a Celtic Saint and the saint of “tinners”. Miners from Cornwall who settled in California during the mid-19th Century gold rush carried out St. Piran’s day celebrations, which have been continued by their descendants.
The flag of Cornwall – amongst other names – is known as Saint Piran’s Flag. It is named so as it is said to resemble tin ore in the rock, and thus is a symbol of tin mining and is a fitting representation of Cornwall as a whole.
National days are important to the Celtic nations in preserving their heritage and identity. In recent years, schools in Cornwall have been making conscious efforts to preserve Cornish identity. They do this through celebrating St. Piran’s day alongside other important national days, including Murdoch and Trevithick Day. There has also been a revival in the teaching and learning of the Cornish language, which – with the help of Breton and Welsh – has been formalised in the unified Cornish language.
So, get your pasties, rattler and saffron buns ready for the 5th March! Gool Peran Lowen!
Kernow Bys Vyken!