The Welsh equivalent of St. Valentine? Meet Saint Dwynwen, the patron saint of lovers.
Living in the fifth century, it is said that the beautiful saint fell in love with handsome young Maelon, but her father, the King of Powys, didn’t approve and fixed her up with an arranged marriage instead. Miserable, Dwynwen prayed to have her memory erased.
But the wish nearly killed her love. An angel came to Dwynwen in her sleep and froze Maelon into a block of ice. She begged God to bring him back to life in exchange for a life of service. Striking a deal, Dwynwen is said to have founded a convent off the west coast of Anglesey, the BBC reports.
Now a place of pilgrimage, visitors make the trek to a well where apparently sacred eels can forecast the outcome of relationships. Celebrated January 25, the holiday often involves love spoons, pictured above.
An old tradition of courting and marriage, a Welsh man — possibly originating among sailors — would carve a love spoon for his beloved one, according to the BBC. They would then decorate the whittled wood with different symbols: Keys would signify a man’s heart, wheels his hard work and beads, his preferred number of offspring, according to the Telegraph.
But Wales isn’t totally caught up in the centuries-old tradition. BBC News reports that many Welsh residents aren’t even familiar with Dwynwen’s tragic love story and instead opt into the Western tradition of chocolates and bouquets on February 14. (See the BBC’s full list of Welsh courting customs here.)