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Wales is a country with a rich history and culture, and its national emblems reflect this. The Welsh flag is one of the most recognisable in the world, and the dragon is a powerful image that has been associated with Wales for centuries. But this isn’t the only symbol associated with the country, in this guide we’ll look at the 7 main emblems of Wales today.

1. The Red Dragon

Most people will immediately associate the red dragon with Wales. The reason that the dragon became a symbol of Wales dates back to the 5th century. According to legend, the red dragon, representing the Celtic people, won in a fight against a white dragon, representing the Saxons1 (source: The Camelot Project, University of Rochester).

Since then, the red dragon has been a popular figure in Welsh mythology and has been used as a symbol of Welsh identity.

Today, the red dragon (‘Y Ddraig Goch’ in Welsh) is also found on the flag of Wales against a white and green background which was added later. These are the colours of the Tudor house, a family of Welsh descent who occupied the throne of England in the 15th and 16th centuries.

2. Leeks

There are several stories about how the leek became a national symbol in Wales. However, the most likely origin is during the Battle of Crécy when Welsh archers fought against the French in a leek field in Northern France in 13462 (source: A. Chapman, The Hundred Years War (Part III), pp. 217–230, 2013).

Following the historical victory, welsh people began wearing leeks in their caps to celebrate the bravery of the Welsh archers. The wearing of leeks then became an annual tradition for St David’s Day on the 1st of March each year. The vegetable is also used in many traditional welsh dishes including Welsh Cawl and Welsh Leek Soup.

During the reign of the Tudors, a family of Welsh origin who occupied the throne of England between 1485 and 1603, there are records of them purchasing leeks for the household guard to wear on this date each year. The tradition is also mentioned by Shakespeare in his play Henry V.

3. Daffodils

The daffodil is the national flower of Wales. It is a native flower that blooms around 1st March each year, just in time for St David’s Day.

Although the flower has bloomed in the country for thousands of years, it wasn’t until 1911 that the daffodil became a popular national symbol. This is because the British Prime Minister at the time, David Lloyd George (who was a welsh-speaker with welsh parents), insisted that they be used at the investiture of Edward VIII as Prince of Wales3 (source: J.S. Ellis, Welsh History Review, Vol. 18, Iss. 2, 1996).

Although late to the party as a national symbol, they are now more popular than the long-standing leek and are worn by Welsh people on St David’s Day and throughout the year at sporting events.

4. Love Spoons

© Hawlfraint y Goron / © Crown copyright (2022) Cymru Wales

Love spoons are a traditional Welsh gift that is given to a loved one. They are carved from wood and often decorated with symbols that represent love. 

The more intricate the carving, the greater the skill and effort that had gone into making it, so it was seen as a way of showing how much the man cared for the woman. 

The tradition of giving love spoons dates back to the 17th century, and they were originally given as a courting gift by young men to the women they were interested in. The oldest love spoon in existence dates back to 1667 and can be seen at St Fagans Museum in South Wales4 (source: National Museum of Wales).

Nowadays, love spoons are not such an important part of Welsh culture, although they may still be given as a token of love on special occasions such as anniversaries and St Dwynwen’s Day (the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine’s Day).

5. The Harp

© Hawlfraint y Goron / © Crown copyright (2022) Cymru Wales

The harp is the national instrument of Wales, having been played in the country since the 17th century.

Although early versions of the harp have existed for thousands of years, it was the triple harp, with three rows of strings as opposed to one, that struck a chord with Welsh harpists.

This instrument of Italian origin eventually became known as the ‘Welsh harp’ due to its popularity in the country5 (source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

There is a role of ‘Official Harpist to the Prince of Wales‘ who sits within the royal household. This is a historic position that dates back centuries, although was discontinued between 1871 and 2000.

6. Welsh National Dress

Senedd Cymru via Flickr

The Welsh national dress is a traditional costume that is thought to have been worn by Welsh women for many centuries. Today, it is only worn on celebrations such as St David’s Day and at Eisteddfods.

A typical interpretation of the Welsh national dress includes a skirt or petticoat, a bedgown, an apron, a shawl, and a tall hat6 (source: National Museum of Wales).

Whilst the petticoat and bedgown have been part of the rural welsh dress for many centuries, other elements such as the shawl and the tall hat were introduced later in the 19th century7 (source: C. Stevens, Textile History, Vol. 33, Issue 1, 2002).

7. The Red Kite

Our final symbol of Wales is the red kite, a bird of prey that is often considered to be the national emblem of wildlife in Wales8 (source: RSPB).

Part of the Accipitridae family of birds, which also includes eagles and buzzards9 (source: Wikipedia), the red kite came close to extinction in the UK during the 20th century with only a few pairs remaining in Mid-Wales.

However, due to conservation efforts and reintroductions, there are now more than 4,400 breeding pairs that can be seen all across the country and visiting the red kite feeding stations is one of the best things to do in Mid-Wales. 

The red kite was voted bird of the 20th century by British Trust for Ornithology and was also crowned Wales’s favourite bird in 2007 by an RSPB Cymru and BBC Wales poll.

Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Wales Guidebook. Originally from rural Mid-Wales, he has lived all over the country from Cardiff to Wrexham. A true Welshman, Kieren created this site to share his passion for Wales and help others discover this beautiful country.