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The Feast of St. Kew

Today is the Feast of St. Kew, a little known Welsh saint, probably of the fifth century. She was the sister of a hermit called Docco who founded a monastery at or near the village of St. Kew which is now in Cornwall, England. Nothing much is known about her except that she was able to cause some wild boars to obey her, this ability caught the attention of her said brother who condescended to finally speak to her. Why they were not on speaking terms to begin with was a mystery.

What is in a name? Kew is my given name. It would be unheard of to have a saint with my name especially someone from Asia. My daughter, Cara, was told by her Confraternity of Christian Development (CCD) teacher that everyone has a saint who bears his or her name. She searched in vain for a saint with her name.

The Kew Letters written by the Dutch King, Prince of Orange, William V while seeking refuge in Britain in the “Dutch House” in Kew Palace in 1795 from their war with France, aimed to temporarily relinquish their colonies in Asia, to the British protection in order that they were not in danger of being seized by the French. At that time, Penang, the island of my birth was under British colonial rule.

What does Kew really mean in my dialect? Although it sounds gender neural phonetically, it is definitely a feminine name and carries several meanings: beauty, femininity, feminine beauty, coyness, coquettishness. Kwan means to attend, to appreciate, putting it all together, one may say my name means appreciation of feminine beauty. When I was in my twenties, I went to London and one of the first places I wished to visit was Kew Gardens which bears my name. It is the Royal Botanical Gardens which harbors many species of flora. It is mentioned in Alfred Noyes’ poem: The Barrel-Organ

Come down to Kew in lilac-time, in lilac-time, in lilac-time;

Come down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn't far from London!)

And you shall wander hand in hand with Love in summer's wonderland,

Come down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn't far from London!)

The tradition of celebrating the feast of St. Kew at my home started a number of years ago when Scott first found out there is a saint of my namesake. And so today, two days before leaving for hot Sierra Leone, as the snow falls unrelentingly, we celebrated the Feast of St. Kew.

Celebrating the Feast of St. Kew

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