St Dwynwen's Day / Dydd Santes Dwynwen (25th January)

Have you heard of St Dwynwen’s Day, the ‘Welsh Valentine’s Day’? On 25th January each year, more and more people are celebrating Wales’ own day of all things related to cariad (love).

Dduw Cariad Yw - "God is Love" - photo by Dave Griffiths

Dwynwen

Exposure Radio interviewed people on St Dwynwen’s Day last year. While celebrating the day of the Welsh patron saint of love, it turned out that Dwynwen’s story is actually not very well-known:

The myth / folk tale

There are many versions of Dwynwen’s tale, some telling it as a story of star-crossed lovers, some focus on a religious angle, and some are darker. The version below comes from the National Museum of Wales – it is a more complete, but perhaps darker version than most:

St Dwynwen’s Day

Dwynwen lived during the 5th century and was, by all accounts, one of the prettiest of Brychan Brycheiniog’s 24 daughters. The story goes that Dwynwen fell in love with Maelon Dafodrill, but unfortunately her father had already arranged that she should marry someone else. Maelon was so outraged that he raped Dwynwen and left her.

In her grief Dwynwen fled to the woods, where she begged God to make her forget Maelon. After falling asleep, Dwynwen was visited by an angel, who appeared carrying a sweet potion designed to erase all memory of Maelon and turn him into a block of ice.

God then gave three wishes to Dwynwen. First she wished that Maelon be thawed, second that God meet the hopes and dreams of true lovers and third that she should never marry. All three were fulfilled, and as a mark of her thanks, Dwynwen devoted herself to God’s service for the rest of her life.

Diwrnod Santes Dwynwen

Roedd Dwynwen yn byw yn ystod y 5ed ganrif, yn un o’r harddaf o 24 merch Brychan Brycheiniog. Yn ôl yr hanes, cwympodd Dwynwen mewn cariad â Maelon Dafodrill, ond yn anffodus, roedd ei thad eisoes wedi trefnu iddi briodi rhywun arall. Yn ei gynddaredd, treisiodd Maelon Dwynwen a’i gadael.

Ffodd Dwynwen i’r goedwig, lle gweddïodd ar i Dduw ei rhyddhau o’i theimladau am Maelon. Wedi cwympo i gysgu, ymddangosodd angel yn cario dogn melys wedi’i baratoi er mwyn dileu yr holl atgof o Maelon ac i’w droi yn ddarn o ia.

Yna rhoes Duw dri dymuniad i Dwynwen. Yn gyntaf, gofynnodd am ddadmer Maelon; yn ail, y byddai Duw yn ateb gobeithion a breuddwydion gwir gariadon; ac yn drydydd, na fyddai hi byth yn priodi. Cafodd y tri eu gwireddu, ac fel arwydd o’i diolch, ymroes Dwynwen i wasanaethu Duw am weddill ei bywyd.

Dwynwen became the Welsh patron saint of lovers and, according to some, friendship. The most famous quote attributed to her is “nothing wins hearts like cheerfulness”. Over time she also came to be associated with the healing of sick and distressed animals, a purpose for which she is still invoked today. However, just like St Valentine, Dwynwen is not actually recognised as a saint by the Catholic Church.

The rise in popularity of St Dwynwen’s Day

Dwynwen. Image credit: Margaret Jones, National Museum Wales

There has been a growing awareness of St Dwynwen’s Day in Wales in recent years. Wikipedia claims that St Dwynwen’s Day’s revival started in the 1960s through a student campaign at University College, Bangor. (Accessed 17th January 2014)

More recently, its popularity has continued to grow as a result of campaigns run by organisations lobbying for the Welsh Language. St Dwynwen’s Day has also caught the imagination of Tourist Boards, Gift Shops, and businesses throughout Wales.

Ways to celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day

Romantics celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day in much the same way that Valentine’s Day is celebrated, chiefly with the giving of cards and gifts. Celebrating St Dwynwen’s Day doesn’t mean you can’t also celebrate Valentine’s Day: in Wales, you have an excuse to be twice as romantic!

If you’re looking for something romantic with a Welsh flavour, the most traditional gift would be a Welsh love spoon. You could also try serenading the object of your affection with a Welsh love song.

Alternatively, you could try cooking a special Welsh dish for your loved one. If you feel creative, you could try to make heart-shaped welsh cakes.

St Dwynwen’s Day events 2015

Dydd Santes Dwynwen Dda – Happy Saint Dwynwen’s Day!