Maybe your true love is immune to red roses and sentimental cards adorned with heart-clutching teddy bears floating on balloons of sweet emotion. Maybe, as Bob Dylan wrote, Valentines can’t buy her. Well, why wait? January 25th gives you the perfect opportunity to confess your deepest feelings, for this is St Dwynwen’s Day.
St Dwynwen’s Day, or Dydd Santes Dwynwen, is the feast day of the Welsh saint of love. Her story is one of unrequited love, which is perhaps not the result you would want when professing love to your heart’s desire. Born into a royal family, Dwynwen fell in love with Maelon who did not meet her father’s approval and being King, he had the last say. He promised her hand to another man and the broken-hearted Dwynwen prayed that she would fall out of love with Maelon. She was visited by an angel who provided her with a potion to grant her wishes but when Maelon drank it he was turned into a statue of ice. The cold shoulder, indeed. God then granted Dwynwen three wishes – that Maelon, a bit like Han Solo, be thawed; that God meet the dreams of true lovers and that she would never marry. In return she devoted herself to God and became a nun, founding a church on an island near Anglesey called Llanddywyn. The island is also the site of Dwynwen’s well where one legend proclaims that if you look into the water and see a sacred fish then you will marry a faithful husband.
The 14th century Welsh poet Dafydd Ap Gwilym is said to have seen a golden image of Dwynwen inside the church and asked her assistance to act as a messenger between himself and the Morfudd, the girl he hoped to woo, despite the fact that she was married. In his poem In Morfudd’s Arms, ap Gwilym wrote tenderly about his heart’s desire: her hair has lit/My heart to a flame with the gold of it.
In the 1960s Vera Williams, a student at Bangor University, began the revival of St Dwynen’s Day by commissioning four designs for cards in the style of a Welsh Valentine’s Day. By 2004 the day was being promoted by Gwynedd County Council.
So this year, why not try to avoid the commercialism and the prompting of the calendar, think of poor Dwynwen’s sacrifice of the heart, take the moment by the scruff of the neck and surprise the one you love with an unbidden declaration of affection. The news keeps telling us that it’s a big bad world out there, filled with big bad wolves, and so a little bit more affection in the gloom can’t hurt, can it?