Since moving to South Wales, and indeed dating quite a patriotic Welshman, I have become enthralled by Welsh history, language and culture. Despite being part of the British Isles, Wales and the Welsh have a very distinct culture, and one that they are, rightly, incredibly proud of.
You only have to look at the sheer number of castles, mines and immense beauty of the Welsh countryside to notice the vast abundance of history contained within this tiny country. One particular tradition which is celebrated widely here in Wales, but little heard of elsewhere, is St Dwynwen’s day – or, to give it another title, the Welsh ‘Day of Love’.
Celebrated on January 25th, St Dwynwen’s Day is far from the commercialised day of St Valentine’s. Instead of the usual St Valentine’s Day gifts, it is tradition to exchange a wooden lovespoon.
Here are my 5 reasons why EVERYONE should celebrate St Dwynwen’s day.
You’ll get TWO chances to show that special someone how much they mean to you
We’ve all heard of St Valentine and traditionally this is the day that you celebrate feeling the love that makes your heart skip a beat. St Dwynwen’s Day gives you a second chance to do that! And that can only be a good thing, right?
Because the legend of St Dwynwen is pretty cool
It is. It’s the classic 5th century tale of two lovers unable to be together so one turns to ice and the other to a nun. Dwynwen (pronounced Doy-n-When) was thought to be the daughter of a 5th century king. Legend has it that she fell in love with a young man called Maelon Daffodril. However, in possibly one of the oldest shows of playing hard to get, she rejected his advances. Stories follow that her father refused permission for Maelon to marry her. Broken hearted, she prays for help to forget him and an angel answers her prayers with a potion. Somehow, Maelon drinks this potion and promptly turns to ice. Dwywnen then prays for three further wishes, which are subsequently granted by her angel – firstly to release Maelon from his icy state, secondly to watch over all lovers everywhere, and thirdly that she should never marry. Dwynwen then signs up to life as a nun. She later became not only the symbol of Welsh lovers, but also the Welsh patron saint of animals. Therefore, celebrating St Dwynwen’s Day is sort of ensuring her second wish is still, 15 centuries later, coming true.
No need for expensive gifts
You’ll not need an expensive trip to the card store for this day. It is tradition to exchange intricately hand carved wooden love spoons instead. Dating from the 17th century, love spoons were originally carved from a single piece of wood by male suitors in the long winter nights and given to the one that they loved as a symbol of their romantic intentions towards that person. Taken from the earlier tradition of carving culinary spoons, love spoons often have many symbols on them to signify marriage, eternal love, or even the hope for children. So come on guys (or girls)! Get yourselves carving! If wood carving isn’t your thing however, you can find pages of online stores who will do it for you – Google is your friend here!
You’ll find it easier to go out for dinner on St Dwynwen’s Day
Having trouble getting a reservation for a romantic meal on Valentine’s day? We’ve all been there (well, I have, once, maybe…a long time ago). A set menu full of food that they can’t sell the rest of the year in an overcrowded restaurant that is costing you double the price this weekend because it’s Valentines Day. Rushed meals as the waiter eagerly wants you to finish so that the next loved up couple can have your space (if I’m alone with this maybe I just chose a particularly bad restaurant that year), leaving no time for gazing lovingly into each others eyes…hardly conducive to a romantic meal for two! Not the case for the weekend around St Dwynwen’s Day! Being a lesser known occasion, restaurants, in England at least, are unlikely to be booked up as much as they are on St Valentine’s weekend.
No overpriced set menus, no overcrowded restaurants, – just you and the one that you love!
The Welsh are an incredibly romantic, patriotic and passionate bunch. Their flag has a dragon on it and they have their own national anthem. It’s a pretty cool country. Plus, they are stuck onto England like a limpet on a rock, which means that if THEY have cool traditions, the English can steal them, surely? Wales, is still part of Great Britain after all…
So, there you have it! A home-grown legend and not a cuddly toy or overpriced card in sight!
For those of you that would like to celebrate St Dwynwen’s day yourselves this year the Visit Wales website has a handy (and free!) downloadable St Dwynwen’s day card here.
The National Museum of Wales in St Fagan’s has a guide to Welsh Lovespoons and a link here for those of you that might like to have a go at designing your own.
Whether its St Dwnywen’s Day or St Valentine’s Day that you choose to celebrate (or even both), have a happy Love day!
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