"Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb galon"-"A nation without a language is a nation without a heart" Welsh Proverb

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Monday, February 27, 2012

My Little Welsh Home by Alison Hill: Welsh Guest Writer right here in North Carolina!

Dolbadarn Castle in Llanberis, North Wales

           My Little Welsh Home
                by Alison Hill
       Longing. Yearning. Homesickness. These are loose definitions of the Welsh word ‘hiraeth,’ which most ex-pats are sure to be familiar with. But there is no direct English translation, which makes me wonder if the Welsh experience a more intense pining. It’s not just ‘home’ we miss, we are saddened by our separation from a ‘feeling’ only Wales can offer, and that only our compatriots would truly understand. This is a magic that cannot be recreated abroad, no matter how many Welsh dragons we fly. We belong to a nation and culture steeped in history and myth, we share a powerful bond through our language, and our love of music and literature (the finer things in life) is innate. Where else would you grow up competing in the cultural Olympics that is the Eisteddfod? Children in Wales are encouraged to participate in the arts at a very young age, and this induces a lifelong interest in beautiful, meaningful things.

Daffodil-Flower of Wales

     But nobody knows much about Wales. We are not one of the popular crowd. We are ‘the other’ Celtic nation, the forgotten one, the red-headed stepchild if you like.  Many people in America do not realize Wales is a country, with its own culture, customs, language, rich history and unique traditions. I’m often asked if the Welsh language is different from English, and I answer, politely, ‘yes, it’s...another language, far older than English, in fact one of the oldest spoken languages in Europe.’
      The Irish win hands down in the popularity contest stateside, and many equate the word ‘Celtic’ with Irish, whereas in reality Ireland is one of six Celtic nations. Scots are known here for their kilts and bagpipes, Braveheart and Highland Games. But what of the Welsh? What is our identity? We don’t need gimmicks. You don’t have to buy silly hats or color rivers green for us. But we would like some recognition please. So give us a moment to share with you who we are. Let us tell you some of our stories, myths, and legends, sing you some of our songs, show you some of the beautiful places we love to call home.
      Snowdon North Wales

     At this time of year, as St. David’s Day approaches, I reflect on what I miss most about Wales. The misty mountains of Snowdonia, the tranquil beauty of Pennant Valley, the windswept beaches of Anglesey. Lonely, winding roads lined with dry stone walls. Gentle rain. Castles around every corner, humped back bridges, fields lush and verdant. The culture, music, language and community. Hearing stories of the old times, Welsh spoken all around me. All of this and more. I miss my small village in the mountains, where I grew up knowing everyone, and where everyone knew me. What a sense of belonging and comfort. This is where I come from, and where I love to return. As time goes by, memories often hurt as much as they please. This is a feeling I’ll never outgrow or outlive. Wherever life takes me, Wales will always be my home, and the ‘hiraeth’ will never cease.

Alison Hill

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