Today Is Welsh 'Valentine's Day' – Here's Why It Should Be Celebrated

Along with similar revivals of Welsh folklore and culture over recent years, many find themselves celebrating Dydd Santes Dwynwen on January 25th.

My favourite part about being Welsh is the magic and mysticism associated with my culture. From the story of Gelert (the 13th century guard dog whose grave can still be visited in Snowdonia) to the Nos Galan (the decades-old New Year’s Eve race around the town centre of Mountain Ash, celebrating the 18th century Welsh runner, Guto Nyth Brân), there’s no escaping legend and lore.


A Definitive List of Welsh Legends

With the list of saints, sinners and general Welsh icons being as long as a very long thing, it’s no surprise that the Land of Song also have its own patron saint for lovers: Saint Dwynwen.

While Saint Valentine’s big day is the 14th of February, Dwynen’s is today, the 25th of January, and an increasing number of Welsh people are pieing off the former in order to make their Dydd Santes Dwynwen celebration feel even more special.

Who Was Saint Dwynwen?

This story originated literally 15,000 years ago, so there are a few different versions of Saint Dwynwen’s tale, but they all follow pretty much the same formula.

Leena, a Welsh patriot from Bangor, recounts: “Dwynwen was one of the daughters of Brychan Brycheiniog, king of Anglesey – the prettiest daughter, apparently – and she fell in love with a prince called Maelon, but she’d already been promised by her father Brychan to another man. She was heartbroken and prayed to God to help her get over and forget Maelon. That night, an angel appeared and gave her a potion to drink that made her forget Maelon and turned him into ice.”

Sam, a 26-year-old from Cardiff, finishes the story: “After Maelon is turned into ice, Dwynwen is granted three wishes. She wished Maelon was unfrozen but would vanish from her, that she would never marry – which was probably huge in the 5th century – and that she could help other lovers.” George from the Rhondda says the help requested boiled down to God looking after “all loves that are true”, which makes Dwynwen the perfect patron saint for true love in Wales – and, realistically, should be enough to make her the patron saint for lovers everywhere, not just those west of the Severn bridge.


Following the events of Dwynwen’s story, she went on to found a nunnery on Ynys Llanddwyn, where she devoted herself to God until her death. The remains of the church are still available to visit centuries later, and to this day it’s said that Dwynwen helps Welsh lovers through the wishing well on Ynys Llanddwyn.

Why Should We Still Celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen?

Aberystwyth native @TheWelshHistorian has made a name for himself on Twitter for sharing bitesize pieces of Welsh history – not just to keep our culture alive, but to make it accessible. The 36-year-old said he believes Dwynwen is important “because she represents a counter to the sort of globalised homogeny of Valentine's Day. It's great to celebrate things that are local and relevant to us as Welsh people.”

Leena agrees, but feels there is a universality to Dwynwen’s story that elevates it above simply celebrating Welshness. “It's a bittersweet story with a lot of meaning,” she explains. “It teaches people a number of valuable lessons, such as kindness and selflessness.”

Katie, a 29-year-old from Gwynedd, adds that not only is Dwynwen a good fable to follow, but the saint is also a figurehead who many women find relatable. “Dwynwen to me is an archetype – a woman who went through tribulations and overcame her grief, trauma and sadness to find peace in a solitary nook of the North Walean coast,” she says. “Her story is still reminiscent of what many women experience today.”


Why Should We Keep These Welsh Traditions Alive?

The celebration of Dydd Santes Dwynwen falls in line with similar revivals of Welsh folklore and culture in recent years – Mari Lwyd, anyone? – and as @TheWelshHistorian points out, it’s important to keep Cymru’s historic culture alive.

Morgan, a 22-year-old from Blackwood, feels that “with Welsh culture historically being oppressed and erased, it’s important to celebrate and honour all facets of Welsh culture whenever we can – and holidays are a great way to do that”.

Katie agrees. “There is no lasting writing for Welsh culture and religion outside of the Mabinogion, because our priests were slaughtered and our culture almost wiped out,” she says. “The fact of the matter is our ancient language and culture is constantly under threat. Celebrating Welshness proudly is one of the few things that can keep our history alive.”

As Katie points out, the difficulty of accessing Welsh history isn’t simply down to a loss of stories due to time and resources, but because of a suppression of our culture by the English. TheWelshHistorian also made note of this, telling me that we are “brought up on British history, almost at the expense of Welsh history”.

“Welsh culture and our stories are so important to our identity, but we’re not given the access or knowledge of them,” George adds. “Imagine the story of King Arthur not being taught or at least referenced in schools. If we lose our stories, we lose our identity.”