Around the world, the 25thof January is known as Burns Night, even in Wales. Robert Burns’s many
enthusiasts gather in clubs, pubs and halls to revel in the magic of his timeless verse. There is another reason for celebration on this cold, sometimes dreary day. To Welsh lovers, it is a day for chocolate, flowers and love spoons, candlelit meals and stolen kisses.
January 25th is Dydd Santes Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers. A fortnight after the Old New Year – Yr Hen Galan (still celebrated in parts of Wales in the traditional way) – we celebrate love and romance. And here is why:
Dwynwen, the daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog, a chieftain of Powys, fell in love with a youth by the name of Maelon. Although she loved this young man, she rejected his amorous attentions. According to legend, God appeared to Dwynwen and offered her a sweet drink. When she drank it, her love for Maelon was dispelled.
When Maelon also drank the sweet liquid, he was turned to ice. The injustice of his fate – for no other crime than his love for her – evoked Dwynwen’s pity and she asked for God’s mercy. The youth was revived but Dwynwen had embraced her choice to remain chaste. In sympathy with those, like Maelon, whose love is unrequited, she became the patron saint of lovers and never married.
Dwynwen is known in Cornwall as Adwen – another a daughter of Brychan, one of his twenty-four children.
Dydd Santes Dwynwen has always been celebrated in Wales but, in recent years, greater emphasis has been placed on the 25th of January as a Welsh occasion for lovers. While St. Valentine’s Day still holds firm, Dwynwen has regained her place – an additional opportunity for couples to declare their love with gifts and romantic evenings.