Today is not only the daughter’s 3rd birthday (although since she’s having a full fortnight of celebrations, it seems, what does the actual day matter?) but also an important day in the Welsh saintly calendar – St Dwynwen’s Day.
Wales has never managed to export many of its saints. Other than St David (the only patron saint of the British Isles actually born in the country he represents) they’ve all been pretty much forgotten. But good old Dwynwen has been experiencing something of a resurgence in recent years – probably because she has a really good story.
St Dwynwen’s Day is often called the Welsh Valentine’s Day (which might be another opportunity for her popularity, of course – the potential for selling more cards and chocolate. But I choose to believe it’s the romance of her story that’s done it.) but unlike St Valentine, Dwynwen actually has a good reason to be connected with all things hearts and flowers.
The story goes that back in the 5th century, Dwynwen, the prettiest of Brychan Brycheiniog’s 24 daughters, fell in love with the prince, Maelon Dafodrill. Unfortunately for Dwynwen, as was the custom in those days, her father had already chosen her husband. And it wasn’t Maelon.
Like all good romantic heroines, Dwynwen knew she ‘could never love another!’ (cue dramatic swoon) so she begged God to make her forget him. An angel visited her that night to give her a potion designed to erase all memory of her love. Of course, it also had the rather strange side effect of turning him into a block of ice.
God gave three wishes to Dwynwen, in addition to the potion. Sources vary as to the order in which she used them (along with a few other details, too, actually. But isn’t that always the case with the best stories?) but today’s tradition tends to go with the following. First, she wished that Maelon be thawed. Second, that God meet the hopes and dreams of true lovers. Third, that she should never marry.
All three wishes were granted, and in return, Dwynwen devoted her life to God’s service, founding the convent at Llanddwyn on Anglesey, which is still a site of pilgrimage today.
See? Isn’t that a better story for a patron saint of lovers than some unknown martyr in Ancient Rome?