Dydd Santes Dwynwen Hapus – Happy Saint Dwynwen’s Day

Llongyfarchiadau os ydych yn dyweddïo heddiw.

Congratulations if you get engaged today!

As we are careering towards Saint Valentine’s Day, with all the hype and increase in prices which seem to be attached these days I started thinking about the significance. Isn’t it strange how we have become so attached to an image without any back story. How many people know the reason why we celebrate St Valentine’s Day?

I’m a proud Welsh woman (though not a Welsh speaker) and I found myself thinking about the importance of people embracing their own cultural history and including it in their lives, particularly at the key moments such as when they get married or the birth / naming of a child. We have a Welsh Saint of Lovers, a woman, and her special day is 25th January. Her name is Saint Dwynwen (Santes Dwynwen).

She lived in 5th century Wales and was believed to be the prettiest of Brychan Brycheiniog’s 24 daughters. As was very much the way she had been promised in marriage by her father to forge strong family ties. Of course, that’s not the way love works is it? Dwynwen fell in love with a prince called Maelon Dafodrill.

This should have been a good match – he was a Prince after all. But a promise is a promise and her father didn’t want to lose face. So he forbade Dwynwen to marry or indeed to see Maelon again.

True to form there are a few versions of what happened next but they all agree that she was so upset that she begged God to make her forget him, to take the pain away. When she fell asleep at last she was visited by an angel with a sweet potion which would erase all memory of Maelon and turn him into a block of ice (for some reason!)

God then offered Dwynwen three wishes. She thought about what to do. She used her first wish to thaw Maelon; with her second she asked God to meet the hopes and dreams of all true lovers in the future; her third she used to wish 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.

She created a convent on Llanddwyn, off the west coast of Anglesey, the remains of which can still be visited today. The well on the island became a place of pilgrimage after her death in 465 AD. Many people believed that the sacred fish / eels that lived in the well could forecast whether their relationship would be happy and remain in love!

As a celebrant I work with couples to create unique and very personal ceremonies to mark their commitment to each other in ways which have meaning for them. I love to take well known rituals such as handfasting, jumping the broom, sand / candle /gin ceremonies and rework them to make them meaningful and relevant to the couple. To weave their history, traditions and beliefs through the words of their wedding vows, to include meaningful moments which reflect them and create memories which last for a life time. What would you include in your ceremony on your special day?

I’m going to be celebrating Saint Dwynwen’s Day every year from now on – what about you?

Top picture: Calon Lan Cakes


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