Yes, you read the title correctly and no I am not mad! Not only do the Welsh celebrate St Valentine’s Day on the 14th February, they also celebrate their own Valentine’s Day on the 26th January with St Dwynwen’s Day or Dydd Santes Dwynwen.
If you’re in Wales today you might even overhear people say “Dwi’n dy garu di (I love you)” as you walk around or even “Dydd santes Dwynwen hapus i ti (Happy St Dwynwen’s day to you)”
Personally, I love St Dwynwen’s most famous saying which is; “Nothing wins hearts like cheerfulness” Isn’t that beautiful and so true!
Who was Dwynwen?
Dwynwen (whose name means She Who Lives A Blessed Life) lived during the 5th century and was the prettiest of King Brychan Brucheiniog’s 24 daughters. The King arranged for Dwynwen to marry another prince, but Dwynwen had fallen in love with Maelon Dafoldrill. Her father was furious and forbade Dwynwen to marry Maelon, insisting she married the groom he had chosen.
Dwynwen was distraught and begged God to help her forget him and in her sleep, she was visited by an angel who brought a sweet potion designed to make her forget Maelon and turn him into a block of ice.
God then gave Dwynwen three wishes. Her first wish was that Maelon be thawed, her second was that she would never marry and her third was that God would meet the hopes and dreams of true lovers. God agreed to her wishes and as a mark of thanks, Dwynwen gave her life to God and became a nun, living the rest of her life in His service. She founded a convent in Llanddwyn on Anglesey where she lived until her death in 465AD
Visitors often make a pilgrimage to a well named after her, amongst the remains of Dwynwen’s church, where they believe the sacred fish or eels that live in the well can tell whether their relationship will last and if happiness will be theirs!
How is St Dwynwen’s Day Celebrated?
St Dwynwen’s Day is the most romantic day of the year for the Welsh. We exchange cards and gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes over candlelit dinners, take long walks on deserted beaches, run through meadows in slow-motion whilst holding hands, carve Lovespoons and cwtch in front of roaring log fires!
Does Everyone in Wales Celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day?
Not really, in fact as a child I had never even heard of it, despite growing up and attending a school in Wales. However it is becoming more and more popular as the years pass. I mean, who wouldn’t want to celebrate the most Romantic day of the year twice! You don’t even have to be Welsh or live in Wales to celebrate, feel free to tell your loved ones that you love them and to wish them a Happy St Dwynwen’s Day.
Can You Visit Llanddwyn Island?
You’ll find Llanddwyn on the southwest corner of Anglesey, just beyond the village of Newborough. It has a very pretty, Blue Flag beach which is backed by dunes and a forest that’s home to red squirrels, and a huge roost of ravens. The whole area is a nature reserve, with stunning views across the Menai Strait to the mountains of Snowdonia.
Llanddwyn Island is actually a peninsula that’s only rarely cut off by the highest of high tides. If you walk out to the headland you’ll find two lighthouses, a couple of pilot’s cottages (which becomes a visitor centre in the summer) and the picturesque ruins of St Dwynwen’s Church. This is built on the site of the nunnery she founded in the 5th century and she’s said to be buried there.
Not only is there Dwynwen’s Well on the Island, the one which is important for lovers, there are several other wells and/ springs, including Merddyn Cil (Merlin’s Well) and Ffynnon Dafaden whose waters are said to cure warts.