St Piran’s Day 2021: how to say ‘Happy St Piran’s Day’ in Cornish, what is the flag - and why is it celebrated?

St Piran’s Day is celebrated on 5 March each year in Cornwall

Friday, 5th March 2021, 11:39 am
In normal times, St Piran's Day celebrations can last a full week before the actual day (Getty Images)

Celebrations to mark St Piran’s Day have officially kicked off in Cornwall - but the national day will look very different to usual.

Due to the Covid-19 lockdown, the 5 March parades have been cancelled, with Cornish people urged to observe the day in other ways.

In normal times, the celebration of all things Cornish can sometimes last a full week before actual St Piran’s Day.

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So, what is St Piran’s Day, how do you say “Happy St Piran’s Day” in Cornish - and how will it be celebrated this year?

Here is everything you need to know.

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What is St Piran’s Day?

The national day of Cornwall is named after one of the patron saints of the county, St Piran.

He is the patron saint of tin miners, and one of three patron saints celebrated by the Cornish, with the other two being St Michael and St Petroc.

St Piran was a sixth century abbot and saint, and according to legend he was born in Ireland where he performed miracles.

One such miracle was raising soldiers who were killed in battle from the dead.

But his powers started to make a group of local kings wary.

They decided to fling St Piran into the sea, with a millstone around his neck, in an attempt to drown him.

However, according to folklore, St Piran survived by floating over to Perranporth beach on the north coast of Cornwall.

It was there that he built a small chapel in the dunes, now known at St Piran’s Oratory or the “lost church”, where the Cornish gathered to hear him preach.

Legend has it that St Piran lived for 200 years, meeting his death when he fell down a well drunk.

How did the national day begin?

St Piran’s Day began as a traditional holiday for tin miners of Cornwall.

The festival itself has been around since the 1800s, when miners drank and ate in the week leading up to the holiday, which was known as “Perrantide”.

That’s how the 19th century phrase “drunk as a perraner” came about.

In the 20th century, Celtic Revivalists endeavoured to make the date a national day.

They succeeded, and by the 1950s it became celebrated all over the county in towns like St Ives, Falmouth and Bodmin.

It is even celebrated in Grass Valley in California to honour the Cornish miners who worked in the area from the mid-19th century onwards.

The government has never approved requests to make 5 March an official bank holiday in Cornwall, yet despite this, many towns in the county give a day off to workers and students.

How do you say ‘Happy St Piran’s Day’ in Cornish?

“Happy St Piran’s Day” in Cornish is “Gool Peran Lowen”.

It’s the traditional way to greet someone on St Piran’s Day.

The motto of Cornwall, “onen hag oll”, is also said a lot on the national day.

In English, it translates to: “One and all”.

What is the St Piran’s flag?

St Piran is said to have discovered molten tin running from a hearthstone after he lit a fire.

That’s why the Cornish flag is a white cross on a black background, representing the white tin flowing from the black rock.

St Piran’s flag is also said to symbolise the light of truth shining through the darkness.

How is the day usually celebrated?

St Piran’s Day makes for a huge annual celebration, but unfortunately this year the traditional events and activities have been cancelled in the wake of Covid-19.

That includes parades, music, dancing, fairground rides and rugby matches.

Most Cornish towns usually celebrate with a Furry dance - a processional dance performed four-abreast and often by children.

Then, at 9pm on the dot on 5 March, revellers in pubs across Cornwall break into the Trelawny Shout, which is one big singalong.

They traditionally sing the Cornish anthem, the Song of the Western Men, and raise money for the Cornwall Community Foundation.

Hundreds of people also join the annual walk across Perran Sands on the Sunday closest to St Piran’s Day.

What are the celebrations in 2021?

Due to the lack of traditional celebrations, Cornish people are being urged to leave daffodils at the old Cornish cross on the sands during their daily exercise.

Online celebrations on 5 March are also planned.

Redruth, which usually hosts a St Piran’s Festival, had instead put together a virtual event via its Facebook page to “spread the community spirit”.

And the Trelawny Shout will still be happening in online form.

People will be encouraged to join in signing the anthem at 9pm.