St Piran’s Day: The Tinners’ Holiday

St Piran’s Day celebrates the patron saint of Cornwall on March 5th. The day was based around mining before the Cornish revival, which was headed by Henry Jenner and Robert Morton Nance in the late 19th to early 20th centuries. It was a holiday similar to Picrous Day and Chewidden Thursday. The Simpsons featured the Cornish language that stemmed from Jenner’s work.

A Cornish Revival  

St Piran’s Day is based around the revival of a language for some people who see themselves as Cornish. This is also linked to Jenner and A Handbook of the Cornish Language published in 1904. The inauguration of Gorseth Kernow at Boscawen Un stone circle reinforced this otherwise ‘Celtic’ meaning for St Piran’s Day in the twentieth century.

Boscawen Un is a Bronze Age stone circle located near Penzance in Cornwall

Boscawen Un is a Bronze Age stone circle located near Penzance in Cornwall.

The Archdruid of Wales initiated Jenner and twelve others into the first Gorseth Kernow in 1928.

The Archdruid of Wales initiated Jenner and twelve others into the first Gorseth Kernow in 1928.

The Surfing Saint

More than a pale imitation of St Patrick’s Day, St Piran’s Day is celebrated all over the world. This is largely through the diaspora created from the miners that migrated from Cornwall in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For example, the California Cornish celebrate via a parade every year at the Grass Valley. There is also a seasonal St Piran’s Ale that serves as the Cornish equivalent to Guinness. This is produced by Skinner’s Brewery in Truro. There is even an online petition seeking to recognize St Piran’s Day as a Bank Holiday in the UK.

The surfing saint makes his way to Cornwall from Ireland on a millstone.

The surfing saint makes his way to Cornwall from Ireland on a millstone.

The True Meaning of St Piran’s Day

The pasty is also an offshoot of the mining culture that developed in Cornwall. It was transported all over the world via the families of this workforce. There is even a Mexican pasty called the paste.  The basic ingredients of a pasty are flour, butter, lard, salt, pepper, potato, swede (rutabaga) and onion. It takes skill to make a good pasty, as well as very little skill to make one that is memorable for all the wrong reasons.

A shortcrust pasty for St Piran's Day.

A shortcrust pasty for St Piran’s Day.