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Watch the re-enactment on St Piran’s Day at Perranporth

St Piran's Day celebrates the arrival of St Piran who was washed ashore at Perranporth in the 8th century. He eventually established a church and gave the town its name. The 5th March, St Piran's Day, is now considered the National Day of Cornwall.
The popular seaside resort of Perranporth gets its name from St Piran, one of the patron saints of Cornwall, so it is fitting that every year St Piran’s Day is celebrated in the town. The event is held on the nearest Sunday to St Piran’s Day, which is 5th March 2013.

This family event draws thousands to attend the anniversary. It is the tradition for local Cornish people to dress in black, white and gold, the colours of Cornwall. You will also see many people carrying the Cornish flag (white cross on a black background) which incidentally is also known as St Piran’s flag.

History behind St Piran’s Day

St Piran’s Day marks the anniversary of St Piran arriving in Cornwall from Ireland in the 8th century. Legend has it that he had miraculous powers which a group of kings feared so they threw him into the sea. He was then carried on a millstone across the sea, washed ashore at Perranporth and then founded a church.

The festival was started by local tin miners and soon became the National Day of Cornwall. The miners believed that St Piran in some way imparted secrets about tin mining to their ancestors. Whatever the history, the day was traditionally celebrated in Perranporth with plenty of alcohol and food being consumed on what was known as Perrantide. The local saying “drunk as a Perraner” sums up how the day generally ended.

The festival of St Piran’s Day was revived in the 1950s by Celtic Revivalists. Parades and celebrations take place in towns all over Cornwall on a lesser scale than in Perranporth, where it is an official public holiday for council workers and schoolchildren. So far, petitions to make it a Cornish public holiday have not been taken up by the rest of Cornwall, or indeed the UK. You may well see more St Piran’s flags flying during that week if you happen to be visiting the county.

What’s happening in Perranporth on St Piran’s Day

The St Piran’s Day event focuses on a dramatic reenactment of the saint arriving on the beach and then a procession of people walk from the beach across the sand dunes to St Piran’s Cross. It’s fun to attend as a family and watch the play and then join in the parade which usually sees at least 400 people marching with flags. The parade is led by musicians, drummers and bagpipes with plenty of banner waving in the Cornish language.

Children from local schools and Bodmin College traditionally join the procession down Fore Street, pausing at the Flamank Stone (Miner’s Statue) to show a mark of respect. The procession continues to Mount Folly for speeches and rousing singing of “Hail to the Homeland” and “Trelawny”.

The procession ends at St Piran’s Church with school children performing Cornish songs, dances and plays. Back in the town there are plenty of events including stalls and the obligatory Cornish pasties or “oggies” for lunch.

St Petroc’s Church

If nothing else, it’s worth attending St Piran’s Day to see . This simple stone church is one of the oldest and most important religious sites in the UK.

It was believed to have been built in the 8th century by St Piran himself, although an inscribed stone in the walls dates back to the 5-6th century. Built close to the seashore, the chapel eventually became buried in the shifting sands for centuries, was unearthed in the 19th century but lost again beneath the dunes until the 1970s.

Have you attended the St Piran’s Day celebrations in Perranporth? We’d love to hear more about Cornish traditions, language and cultural heritage so feel free to share what being Cornish means to you.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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