The Legend of St Dwynwen & Welsh Valentines
St Dywnwen's Day is the Welsh version of Valentines Day
Here in Wales, we have our very own Valentines celebration, celebrated annually on the 25th January. The celebration has developed from a legendary story about a female saint, Dwynwen (pronounced Doyn-wen), and has been part of the Welsh calendar for nearly fifteen hundred years.
In the 5th Century, there was a Welsh king named Brychan Brycheiniog who had twenty-four daughters, of which Dwynwen was known to be the most beautiful. Being the most attractive daughter, Brychan had set up an arranged marriage much to Dwynwen’s disapproval, for she had fallen in love with another.
A young man (a prince by some accounts) named Maelon Daffodril had captured Dwynwen’s affections, and some say he had fallen in love with her also. Knowing that they could not be together due to her arranged marriage, Maelon left the kingdom and a heartbroken Dwynwen escaped to the woods where she reached out and prayed to God. She prayed that she forget Maelon and her love for him, in an attempt to take away her pain.
God heard her cry, and an angel descended the skies with a potion for Dwynwen. Upon drinking the potion, Dwynwen’s strong feelings for Maelon evaporated and the angel turned him into a block of ice. Dwynwen pleaded with the angel to reverse the curse and change Maelon back to the man she had once known, and so the angel agreed. The angel then granted Dwynwen two more wishes – one being that God meet the hopes and dreams of future lovers, and the other being that she was never to marry or feel again the way in which she had felt for Maelon. As a result, Dwynwen vowed to devote her life to God and so founded her own convent becoming a nun on the small island of Llanddwyn, just off Anglesey.
Since Dwynwen’s death, she has been named the Welsh Patron Saint of Lovers. Many lovers still celebrate St Dwynwen's Day to this day giving their sweethearts wooden lovespoons as a gift of their love.
Dating back to the 17th Century, these wooden lovespoons were traditionally hand-carved by men and given to their ladies. Designs for lovespoons vary depending on the occasion or the message you're trying to give but many consist of heart shapes and traditional celtic knots.