February 14th is well known all over the world as the day when new love begins and older relationships are strengthened. However, in Wales a new is becoming increasingly popular as the day when couples celebrate their love – January 25th. This day is known as c, or St Drynwen’s Day.
At first glance, Dydd Santes Drynwen could easily be seen as the Welsh version of St Valentine’s Day. And in many ways it is – but what exactly makes it different?
The story of Drynwen
Drynwen was a Welsh princess from the 4th century, who lived in what is now the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales. As with all old love stories, she fell for* a local man called Maelon Dafodrill but her father, King Brychan, had already arranged for her to marry another prince.
According to the tale, Maelon wasn’t too happy with the news and Dynwen ran to the woods to cry and ask God for help. Not long after, an angel came from heaven to give her a sweet potion*. This helped her forget her love for Maelon, and turned him into a block of ice for good measure*.
Later, God granted her three wishes. The first wish was for Maelon to be thawed; the seconds that God help all true lovers; and the third wish was that she would never marry again. After all this furore*, Dwywen became a nun and began a convent on a beautiful island in North Wales. The end.
The children’s version
This story is often taught to young children at school, and a different version is used to avoid the poor young man being turned into ice. The beginning of the story is similar, with Drynwen and Maelon falling in love, and her father refusing permission. However, when she goes into the forest, instead of the magic potion, the angel comes to her in a dream and gives her the position of Saint of Love.
Who celebrates it?
Dydd Santes Drynwen is not celebrated by everyone in the country. There are many people who don’t do anything, and some who might not even be aware of the story. However, it is gaining popularity, especially among speakers of Cymraeg, the native language of Wales.
For those who do celebrate the day, it’s very similar to St Valentine’s Day with romantic candlelit dinners, exchanging cards or lovespoons.
What are lovespoons?
Lovespoons are a traditional Welsh gift between lovers, or people who wish to show romantic interest. They are extremely decorative spoons made out of wood, with a number of symbols like hearts or locks carved into it*. The tradition dates back to the 17th century, and it isn’t solely associated with Dydd Santes Drynwen – although it’s an excellent gift on that day.
A visit to the monastery
While you don’t have to go on the 25th January, another fantastic way for real enthusiasts to celebrate the day is to go to Drynwen’s monastery. Located on Llanddwyn, the beautiful area is the perfect setting for a romantic day out. There is a Blue Flag beach, a forest and incredible views of the stunning Snowdonia mountain range across the water.
St Valentine’s Day can turn into a chore* for some couples. There’s always the feeling that you should celebrate it, even if you don’t feel like it. The problem is that everyone else also has the same idea and all the good restaurants are either booked or crowded with people. So, instead, why not celebrate the Welsh version? You will be able to eat out in a more comfortable environment – and it will give you a nice excuse to buy a decorative spoon from Wales, if that’s the kind of thing you enjoy.
Fell for: To fall in love with someone
Potion: A magic liquid
For good measure: In addition to what’s been done
To carve: Make designs or shapes with a knife or chisel
Turn into a chore: Become a tedious but necessary task