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St Piran's Day, Cornwall: Everything You Need to Know

Updated: Mar 3

St Piran Cross, Perranporth, photo by Sennen Jewellery
St Piran Cross, Perranporth, photo by Sennen Jewellery

St Piran's day is celebrated all over Cornwall and by communities with historical links to Cornwall all over the world. Here's all you need to know.

What is St Piran's Day?

Cornwall celebrates St. Piran's Day on March 5. In the Duchy as well as elsewhere where there is a sizable Cornish emigrant community, many events with a Cornish theme are held. In his honour, the annual inter-Celtic celebration known as "Lowender Peran" is held in the community of Perranporth.

The largest St. Piran's Day celebration involves thousands of people marching over the sand dunes to St. Piran's cross while carrying the Cornish flag and typically donning black, white, and gold attire. Daffodils are also brought and set at the cross, representing the Gold colour.

St Piran Silver Cufflinks, Sennen Jewellery
St Piran Silver Cufflinks, Sennen Jewellery

Who Was St Piran?

Saint Piran was a 5th-century Cornish abbot and saint, possibly of Irish origin. He is the most famous of all the saints said to have come to Cornwall from Ireland. He is the patron saint of tin-miners, and is also generally seen as the patron saint of Cornwall.

The legend tells that Piran attained enigmatic abilities, including the ability to work miracles, while serving as an abbot in Ireland.

So the Irish rulers tied him to a mill-stone, rolled it over the edge of a cliff into a stormy sea, which immediately became calm, and the saint floated miraculously over the water to land upon the sandy beach of Perranzabuloe in Cornwall where he built his tiny chapel and lived as a hermit.

A badger, a fox, and a bear are reported to have been his first followers! But over time, many of his Christian converts joined him in Perranzabuloe, and together they established the Abbey of Lanpiran, where Piran serving as abbot.

Botallack Mine, Cornwall, photo by Sennen Jewellery
Botallack Mine, Cornwall, photo by Sennen Jewellery

How is St Piran Associated with Cornish Tin?

Legends say that St. Piran used a black rock as a fireplace that once lit, oozed a white liquid from the stone. This substance was Tin and it became the foundation of Cornwall’s economy for centuries to come.

Although tin mining was already established in Cornwall from the time of the Romans, St Piran is said to have brought new techniques in smelting tin.

What Does the Cornish Flag Symbolise?

The national flag of Cornwall is Saint Piran's Flag, which features a white cross on a black backdrop. The black background and the white cross stand for the white tin flowing from the black rock, signifying the victory of good over evil.

Cornish Tin Cornish Shield Cufflinks, Sennen Jewellery
Cornish Tin Cornish Shield Cufflinks, Sennen Jewellery

What is the Cornish Shield?

The shield bearing the phrase "One and All" and 15 golden bezants in the shape of a triangle is the Duke of Cornwall's coat of arms. When the Duke was seized by Saracens during the Crusades, the tale of the 15 bezants took place. The ransom was 15 bezants (gold coins). The money for the ransom was raised by the people of Cornwall. The Duke was released when it was settled. The locals had all pitched in to help raise the funds collectively. Sennen Jewellery stocks St Justin Cornish Shield Cufflinks in Cornish tin, made in Cornwall.

How is St Piran's Day Celebrated in Cornwall?

Thousands of people march to St. Piran's cross while carrying the Cornish flag in the largest St. Piran's Day festival, which takes place near Perranporth.

The week leading up to the big day is known in Cornish as "Perrantide," and it is filled with exciting events around the county. Cornish towns frequently hold weeks of festivities building up to 5 March to mark the important day, including speeches, exhibits, concerts, and parades. To commemorate this important day, the majority of the towns in Cornwall hold their own parades and celebrations, each with a unique local spin on the festivities. So whatever strikes your fancy on Saint Piran's Day, you are sure to find a great local event.

What to Wear to Celebrate Cornwall

You will find many people at the parades dressed in Black and White, or Cornish Tartan, which is a beautiful tartan in the traditional Black, White and Gold colours.

Wearing St Piran jewellery or Cornish tin jewellery featuring the Cornish Shield is a great way of showing your love of Cornwall the whole year round!

Happy St Piran's!

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