Love: An Assembly with a Welsh Flavour
Valentine’s Day and St Dwynwen’s Day
by Manon Ceridwen Parry (revised, originally published in 2011)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider love as something that we do as well as feel.
Preparation and materials
- St Dwynwen’s Day is the Welsh version of St Valentine’s Day. This assembly could be adapted to be used for St Valentine’s Day and around St David’s Day (1 March).
- You will need a love spoon or an image of a love spoon and the means to display it during the assembly. Examples are available at: https://tinyurl.com/yc9nslo6, https://tinyurl.com/y7fxm582 or https://tinyurl.com/y7kb6xsj
- Familiarize yourself with the story in the ‘Assembly’, Steps 2-4. Children could tell the story, or act it out.
- Explain that in Wales, there is an alternative to St Valentine’s Day. On 25 January, the feast day of St Dwynwen, Wales’ patron saint of love, some people in Wales send each other cards and gifts. In Welsh schools, children often have parties and discos to celebrate this day.
- Dwynwen grew up in Brecon, South Wales, during the fourth century. Her father was King Brychan, a legendary Welsh king who had a large number of children, possibly as many as 36. Several of his children have been regarded as saints and throughout Wales, there are places named after them.
- It is said that a man called Maelon, from the north, wanted to marry Dwynwen, and she was in love with him, but King Brychan would not allow the marriage. Dwynwen, not wanting to go against her father, called off the wedding. Maelon was very angry with her, which scared Dwynwen, so she prayed to be protected. As a result of her prayer, Maelon was turned into a block of ice!
- An angel came and granted Dwynwen three wishes. Her first wish was for poor Maelon to be unfrozen, her second was that she would never marry and her third wish was that she would be able to help other people who were unlucky in love.
Dwynwen became a nun and, with some of her brothers and sisters, went all over Wales telling people about Christianity. Dwynwen settled in Llanddwyn, a small tidal island off the south-west coast of Anglesey, where her church became a place of pilgrimage for people who were ill or in love.
People still visit Dwynwen’s church at Llanddwyn. For centuries, it has been a place that people visit if they are having problems with their relationships.
- Wales not only has this special love story (although it isn’t a very happy one!), it also has a tradition to do with love: the love spoon, which is a beautifully carved wooden spoon.
Show the love spoon or some images of them.
The earliest remaining love spoon from Wales dates back to 1667 and can be found in the St Fagans National History Museum in Cardiff.
- When a young man fell in love, he would carve the spoon himself and give it to the woman he loved. If she accepted the spoon, they became a couple.
Men would sometimes compete with one another, each trying to create the most elaborate and intricately carved spoon in the hope of winning the love of a popular woman. They would carefully carve small shapes of familiar objects, symbols of their feelings and hopes (a heart for love, a cross for faith, bells for a wedding and so on).
You may like to discuss some of the symbols on your spoon or on the images of them.
The gift of a love spoon was meant to prove that the man was practical and could look after a family and earn a good living. The spoon was a practical demonstration of love.
- In the Bible, love is often talked about as something that we do as well as feel. On St Valentine’s Day, we often give cards and presents to show our love for someone. Similarly, the love spoon shows the importance of doing practical things to show our love.
- So, how can we show our love for our families and friends today?
Suggest that to show our love, we might like to think of doing one special thing for someone else (the washing up perhaps, or helping a friend to clear up their desk in school).
- Dwynwen’s story tells us that not every love story has a happy ending. However, in the Bible, love is not so much about what others can do for us as about what we can do for others.
Time for reflection
Encourage the children to look at the spoon, or the image of the love spoon, and think quietly about what these words from the Bible might mean for them.
‘Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.’ (1 Corinthians 13.4–6)
‘Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God.’ (1 John 4.7)
Help us to love in actions as well as words.
Help us to love even when it is difficult to do so.
Help us to realize the love that you have for each of us.
‘Love will never come to an end’ (Come and Praise, 99)