Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St Dwynwen’s Day) is considered to be the Welsh equivalent to Valentine’s Day and is celebrated annually on 25 January. It celebrates Dwynwen: the Welsh saint of love. The story goes that in the 5th Century Dwynwen fell in love with Maelon Dafodrill. Maelon returned her feelings but for an undetermined reason, they could not be together. Three hypotheses are that a) Maelon raped Dwynwen despite her wish to remain celibate until after marriage, b) her father forbade the marriage, or c) her father had already promised her to someone else. Dwynwen, distraught by her love for Maelon, prays to fall out of love with him and runs off.
After running away into the woods 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 and became a nun, fulfilling her wish to never marry. She left for the island of Anglesey and built a Church, which became known as Llanddwyn, literally meaning “Church of Dwynwen”. Its remains can still be seen today on the island of Llanddwyn, off the coast of Anglesey. The smaller island also contains Dwynwen’s well, where, allegedly, a sacred fish swims, whose movements predict the future fortunes and relationships of various couples. Another tradition claims that if the water boils while visitors are present, then love and good luck will surely follow
The popularity and celebration of St Dwynwen’s day has increased considerably in recent years, with special events, such as concerts and parties, often held and greetings cards printed. Although still not as popular as St Valentine’s Day in February, St Dwynwen is certainly becoming better-known among today’s population of Wales. the Welsh Language Board (Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg) Also suggest numerous ways to celebrate the feast including sending cards, organizing a love-themed gig, set up a singles night, prepare a romantic meal and perhaps compose a love poem to read at the local pub. The Welsh often celebrate with concerts and parties, and exchange Dydd Santes Dwynwen greetings cards.
An alternative version states that Dwynwen was the beautiful daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog, who was said to have had eleven sons and twenty-four daughters (although these figures vary greatly, to the extent of suggesting he had over fifty children). She met and fell madly in love with a man called Maelon, and he reciprocated her feelings. She asked her father if she could marry Maelon but Brychan disliked Maelon and refused to give his permission. Maelon begged, as did Dwynwen, but Brychan would not relent and Maelon was forced to leave. Dwynwen was so upset that she ran into the forest. There, she met an angel in a dream who granted her the position of the Saint of Love.