Could St Dwynwen's Day be 'a big money-spinner' for Wales?

Two lovers kissing behind a heart Image copyright Thinkstock

Valentine's Day generates an estimated £1bn for the UK economy every year.

But what about Wales' closest equivalent, St Dwynwen's Day (Dydd Santes Dwynwen), which celebrates the eponymous Welsh patron saint of lovers each 25 January?

The event is "little known" elsewhere but "exposure grows each year" and it enjoys "great popularity throughout Wales", according to Visit Wales.

So, how big is the commercial opportunity for Welsh companies to cash in?

"It's not a big money-spinner at the moment but there's not much publicity for it," said Meinir Ffransis, of website, which is based in Pencader, Carmarthenshire.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Love spoons have been exchanged by Welsh lovers since the 17th Century

"Not many people know about it. It's nothing comparable to Valentine's, although it's inherently Welsh - it's a tradition that belongs to us."

Who was Dwynwen, patron saint of lovers?

She is believed to have been the daughter of King Brychan Brycheiniog, originally from Brecon.

After a thwarted romance with her suitor, Maelon Dyfodrull, she prayed to God to be let out of her love and turned him into ice.

Sacred fish

Myth then says she was granted three wishes by an angel; she chose to be free of Maelon, to never marry and to help other true lovers.

She later founded a convent on Llanddwyn, off the west coast of Anglesey, where a church was named in her honour after she died in about AD465.

Also located on the island is Dwynwen's well where, according to folklore, a sacred fish swims, predicting the future fortunes and relationships of couples with its movements.

It is said that, if the water boils while visitors are present, love and good luck will follow.

Image copyright Adra Home/Facebook
Image caption Suppliers like Caernarfon-based Adra Home offer cards and gifts for St Dwynwen's Day

To mark St Dwynwen's, Cadwyn offers traditional love spoons, which have been given as courting gifts in Wales since the 17th Century.

But the online store sells "many more" for Valentine's Day.

Ms Ffransis said the giving of gifts and cards for St Dwynwen's Day tends to be more popular in areas where Welsh is widely spoken.

"It could be marketed much more widely but it's also quite close to Valentine's as well. It was in the tradition historically," she added.

'Trying to push it'

And while you need to be well-prepared or sharp-elbowed to secure yourself a restaurant table on 14 February, a canny Welsh romancer can still plump for a Dwynwen's dinner when competition is less intense.

Wine bar, cafe and shop, Gwin Dylanwad Wine, in Dolgellau, Gwynedd, offered sweethearts a special glass of fizz, meringues and a red rose over the weekend to to mark Santes Dwynwen.

Owner Dylan Rowlands said: "We are trying to push it. Not so many people know about it - we are trying to change that."

The shop also sells paper hearts on which people can write a message for their beloved to be displayed in the window - with all the money going to charity. About 120 love notes have so far been penned.

Image copyright Thinkstock/BBC
Image caption The church at Llanddwyn on Anglesey is visited by thousands each year

"That doesn't sound like much but in a little town with less than 3,000 people it's not bad," Mr Rowlands said.

Social media

Caernarfon-based Adra Home offers gifts and cards. Its founding director Angharad Gwyn said she has noticed a rise in popularity of St Dwynwen's-themed items.

"It's somehow more obvious every year," Ms Gwyn said.

"I don't know if it's because we are all more involved in social media, we are more likely to see and share these things."

Ms Gwyn said it tended to be Welsh speakers who engaged with St Dwynwen's day.

"Actually the legend has nothing to do with the language, it's to do with Wales as a country but not necessarily exclusively for Welsh speakers but I think that's been the trend in the past."

Image copyright Facebook/Gwin Dylanwad Wine
Image caption St Dwynwen's heart cards with messages of love placed in the window at Gwin Dylanwad Wine, Dolgellau

She added: "People still mistake the fact the St Dwynwen's Day is a separate day, some buy those cards thinking it says 'Happy Valentine's Day' in Welsh, but I am seeing more and more suppliers designing and producing them.

"Years ago it would have been making cards that simply say 'I love you' in Welsh rather than specifically referencing the day."

And while the market does not appear to be big enough to attract interest from the larger card manufacturers and distributors, smaller retailers and craft producers are on-hand to meet demand.

In previous years, the former Welsh Language Board has printed thousands of St Dwynwen's cards in a bid to up its profile, with Visit Wales also offering free cards and love spoons for download on its website.

"It's just a matter of getting people to know about it. It's from a standing start, really," Mr Rowlands said.

"With Valentine's it was not so many years ago people started buying all the cards. We have got to get the word out."

More on this story