Where does the year go? It may seem only five minutes since you were pruning your roses and mowing your lawn, but as the leaves begin to fall, the evenings draw in and the days become chillier, it’s time to start looking forward to Christmas, with all its heart-warming traditions. One of the most enduring of these is the Christmas wreath, and Menai Bridge is fortunate enough to have two inspiring florists, keen to deck your door with the very best of wreaths this year.
Wreaths have a long history, and have had many meanings. Today, a wreath is seen as a symbol of celebration in the midst of winter, and of the coming of Christmas. Many pagan cultures fashioned wreaths to mark the winter solstice, and the Ancient Romans made them to celebrate great victories, or to crown the winners of the original Olympic Games. Before houses had names or numbers, people in Europe even used wreaths identify their house. Every house would have a unique wreath, often made from blooms grown on the homeowner’s land.
The word ‘wreath’ comes from the Old English word ‘writha’ , (now ‘writhe’ or ‘twist’ ), and most wreaths are still made by twisting or bending evergreen branches into a large circle. European wreaths symbolise the Christian values of eternal love, strength and the creation of new life: this is why evergreens are often used, because they, too, manage to endure the hardship of winter, and stay alive, and green.
The traditional colours of Christmas are green and red: green represents the continuance of life through the winter, and red symbolizes the blood that Jesus shed at his crucifixion. Holly, with its sharp thorns and bright red berries, represents Jesus’ crown of thorns, and the blood he shed, so it is traditionally used in wreaths.
These days, the shape and contents of a wreath can vary enormously. Baubles, flower seeds, lights and other more innovative creations are often used, but the familiar, evergreen, Christmas wreath and red ribbon probably best represents the spirit of Christmas, and the gathering of loved ones.
Naomi and Carole, both florists in the busy town of Menai Bridge, are both delighted to be continuing this great tradition by creating breathtaking wreaths this Christmas. This is what they had to say about the onset of the Christmas season.
‘The preparation begins in earnest as early as September or October,’ says Carole of ‘Floribundance’, Menai Bridge. ‘I start looking for unusual items long before the season begins. I like to stock the more individual items that are different from the ‘off the peg’ stock from larger florists and outlets.’ So, Carole likes to fill her cosy shop with flowers, greenery and inspiringly different things rather than create a minimalist display that people are afraid to touch, or experiment with.
Naomi of Celtic Floral Creations, also of Menai Bridge, is especially inspired by candles and decorations that light up. ‘You can’t beat a beautiful table arrangement with candles. They give a traditional festive feel to the celebrations,’ she says.
Of the seasonal colour trends, Carole says: ‘I like the traditional colours, the rich shades of burgundy and red, and the colours of Christmas in years gone by. Favourite flowers include the striking amaryllis, wax flower, roses, any perfumed hyacinth and the staggering varieties of red winter berries.’ Carole makes a variety of wreaths each year, preferring the blue pine, cinnamon and slices of orange and fruit, or snowberries with brightly-coloured ribbons. Wreaths can be made to order, but be warned: Carole’s lovely display outside the shop makes choosing just one very difficult!
Colours that will be featuring in Naomi’s displays this year will be the usual choice of reds and greens, but she adds: ‘We also do a lot of winter style bouquets in whites and silvers. We will have a large choice of individual plants and mixed planted baskets with containers for inside and out, as well as holly and spruce wreaths.’ She advises keeping your wreaths fresh by making sure the oasis or moss stays wet by spraying it regularly with water. This way, it should stay fresh until the New Year. For a really thoughtful gift, Naomi suggests adding a box of chocolates, balloon or a bottle of champagne to your floral arrangement or basket. This ticks all the boxes, gift-wise!
It’s clear that you don’t need to do battle with the crowds this year. Come over to Menai Bridge, and enjoy the delicious food on offer in in the numerous welcoming cafés before shopping for that ‘something different’ for friends and family in the town’s selection of attractive and individual shops.
For those of you desperate to escape all the commercialism of Christmas, remember there is a wide range of fair trade alternatives, which help to sustain lives in poorer countries - including Shanga, a small company in Tanzania that makes Christmas decorations from recycled materials. These beautiful stars are all made from recycled materials, and their sales help those people who are overcoming disability and despair in the African country, where there are so few facilities for them. Try looking at the Fair trade websites such as shop.unicef.org.uk for gifts that are not only of good quality, but help people who otherwise would have nothing: gifts truly worth giving.
From Dafydd Hardy, Naomi from Celtic Floral Creations, Carole from Floribundance and all the shops in Menai Bridge, We wish you a very merry Christmas! Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!
Oh, little town of Menai Bridge…
Have yourself a Merry Menai Bridge Christmas!