The fast approaching Yuletide season is hard to avoid. Here at Shire we’re starting to feel pretty Christmassy but if you’re suffering more from seasonal stress than festive fun, let us help you get in the mood. We’ve put together our Christmas tick list which is guaranteed to get you feeling festive!
1. In keeping with tradition…These days most of us have a stash of decorations that we keep for years, handed down from older generations, which is not only a nice sentiment but also environmentally sound. Especially when you consider that in England, it used to be customary to burn the decorations in the hearth at the end of the festive season. One tradition that many of us do stick to today is the theory that we must take down our decorations by Twelfth Night for fear of bad luck. Not only that, some say that if decorations are taken down before the New Year begins, bad luck shall befall the house for a whole year. Yet another superstition suggests that if they are kept up after Twelfth Night, they must remain up until the following Twelfth Night! All in all, decorating your home for Christmas must be approached with extra special care and planning.If you are in need of a bit of inspiration or would rather just be amazed by someone else’s creative festive vision than dedicate hours to your own seasonal style, why not visit a truly stunning home this Christmas? Abbey Cwm Hir is one of Wales’s most outstanding Victorian homes. A 52-room, Grade 1 listed property with magnificent architecture and stature, it is never better displayed than during the Christmas period when every room is beautifully decorated to its own individual theme. No other property in the UK offers quite such a spectacle – there’s a huge Christmas tree dripping with tasteful ornaments as well as more subtle nods to the season such as the stag’s head or coat of arms sporting their own wreaths. The beautiful property is worthy of a visit at any time of year, but if you need some ideas on how to decorate your home, it’s a great place to start looking for inspiration. To book one of the fabulous tours of Abbey Cwm Hir call 01597 851727 or email email@example.com.
2.The great British panto tradition at wintertime might baffle other nations but it simply isn’t Christmas until you’ve enjoyed a trip to the ultimate in slapstick comedy and entertainment! Cross-dressing dames, predictable gags and guaranteed happy endings make this an evening full of the feel-good factor that we all need at this time of year…
Since the early 1800s we have been putting on shows at this time of year, based around fairytales, silliness and our enjoyment of the absurd. The main character in early productions was always Harlequin, and the shows tended to feature comic chase scenes as well as a hearty helping of clowning around. These days shows still use the same ethos – a traditional story that the audience knows, generally some goodies and some baddies, and everyone living happily ever after at the end. Over the years some of the early twists have become established as vital elements – usually the main male lead is played by a girl, there tends to be at least one ‘dame’ played by a man and audience participation is demanded in the form of shouting ‘it’s behind you’ or ‘oh yes it is’ at every available opportunity. Other lesser known conventions are still strictly adhered to. The good fairy always enters from stage right and the villain enters from stage left, a tradition that goes back to medieval mystery plays when the right side of the stage symbolised heaven and the left symbolised hell. One thing is for definite though, if you and your family opt for a night at the panto this Christmas you’ll be laughing all season.Local legends and star-studded shows Llandudno’s Venue Cymru has a long history of putting on great festive shows and this year, Peter Pan runs until January. Starring Ryan Thomas, best known as Coronation Street’s Jason Grimshaw, as Captain Hook and Birkenhead actress Pauline Daniels as Mimi the Mermaid. Joining the cast as Mrs Smee, is Llandudno’s dame-in-residence and North Wales resident Andy Jones, making his 36th pantomime appearance. The team behind so many hilarious pantos over the years are all set to bring you another guaranteed night of fun. Oh yes they are! Book your tickets by calling 01492 872000 or visit www.venuecymru.co.uk.
3. In recent years visiting a festive market has become a proud tradition for many. Celebrating local producers, artisans and craftspeople, the market scene today is a great way to embrace your local community and makes a very merry way to shop
Christmas markets have become a festive staple across many towns and cities with crowds of shoppers persuaded to browse the wares on offer with friends and family and make it a social occasion. Often tinged with a German influence, that goes back to the origins of the Christmas market in the late Middle Ages, we all enjoy sampling a hot mulled wine, which was originally introduced to stave off the cold winter air which often dips below freezing in Germany.
Pick of the markets
In Ludlow, organisers will be arranging their fayre in and around the castle itself. Over the weekend of 25th and 26th November, visitors can explore over 100 stalls selling seasonal wares, food and drink, crafts, historical goods and more. Billed as a medieval event with live music, theatre, comedy, juggling, swashbuckling sword fights and entertainment throughout the castle all weekend. www.ludlowmedievalchristmas.co.uk
In Much Wenlock, organisers of this year’s Christmas Fayre are promising over 100 eclectic stalls that will line the streets and green of this quintessential market town in Shropshire. Held on Saturday 2nd December, enjoy brass bands, choirs, street theatre and entertainers as well as a visiting Santa Claus. The fayre closes with carols by candlelight in the square. Rich in seasonal atmosphere, this market has been held on the first Saturday in December since 2001. Visit www.wenlockchristmasfayre.org.uk.
Head to Shrewsbury Market Hall for a mix of old and new, fresh and organic, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Stock the festive larder with veg, meat and poultry, fresh fish or browse books, china, antiques, collectables and crafts.
4. There’s nothing more magical than seeing the joy on a child’s face when they meet Father Christmas. Here’s the low-down on where the man in red will be visiting across our patch this festive season!
Father Christmas dates back as far as 16th century in England during the reign of Henry VIII, when he was pictured as a large man in green or scarlet robes lined with fur. He typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, bringing peace, joy, good food, wine and revelry. Over the centuries his remit has changed little and although he remains a man of mystery, many parents still rely on the knowledge that he will be making a list and checking it twice to keep children well-behaved as the Christmas craziness takes hold.
The real deal
Obviously one man can’t be everywhere at once and Santa Claus often uses stand-ins to appear at events and grottos across the country. However, Shire Magazine has it on good authority that the real Father Christmas will be visiting several venues on our patch, some of which will make a magical day out for little ones. Why not try hunting him out yourself on the Santa Safari at Hawkstone Park in Shrewsbury? This exciting adventure will keep all the family happy as you meet at the Hawkstone Park Hotel for a warming festive drink before being whisked away in one of the 4x4 vehicles that will take you across the park to the spectacular network of caves where you’ll find Santa’s grotto deep inside. Find out more at www.hawkstoneparkfollies.co.uk.
Alternatively you could catch a Santa Special at Llangollen Railway. Hop on a festively-decorated steam train and travel in style from Llangollen Station to ‘Lapland.’ While on board Santa will give each good child a special gift as well as a mince pie and tipple for the adults. Visit www.llangollen-railway.org.uk to find out more online.
Another great way to meet the main man is to pop in to one of his grottos like the magical setting at Alderford Lake in Whitchurch. He will be in his winter wonderland residence from 1st December to 22nd December, every day from 9am so book in now for a personal audience to tell him your wishes. Make sure you see Santa by calling the café on 01948 665914 to book your slot.
5. Trimming the Christmas tree is one of the best elements of Yuletide, whatever age you are. Whether it’s an artificial tree or a real one complete with pine scents and falling needles, it is hard to feel fully festive until it takes its place in your home, and presents start to pile up around its trunk
The tradition of decorating a Christmas tree has been around for a fair while with the evergreen fir tree traditionally being used to celebrate winter festivals both pagan and Christian for thousands of years. Pagans used branches to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come, the Romans used fir trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia and Christians use it as a sign of everlasting life. Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Today it is a big part of every family Christmas and the act of going to get one and decorating it is often done with plenty of ceremony and flourish.
Picking the tree
If you’re looking to make it a bit of an occasion, why not head off to somewhere all the trees are grown on site and cared for by a devoted family? Pentreclawdd Farm is a local family-run, glamping site in Oswestry Shropshire, which is transformed into a wonderland during the winter. The family open their Christmas shop that sells everything from decorations to presents – and the huge variety of trees available can satisfy the pickiest of pine pickers. Tree varieties include all sizes of non-drop Nordamn fir and Norway spruce, potted trees and tree stands. The trees are all locally grown, with free netting to protect your tree. The team are members of the British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association and abide by its code, ensuring you get a quality Christmas tree every time. www. pentreclawdd farm.co.uk.
6. If you’re still not feeling festive then why not indulge in some classic Christmas movies? Romance, comedy, action and adventure, there’s something for everyone to curl up with on a cold winter’s night
It might be the most wonderful time of the year, but we all do love a good weepy at Christmas and ever since It’s a Wonderful Life depicted its touching tale back in 1946, we’ve continued to enjoy a moving movie at this time of year. Even Home Alone can make us fight back a tear and Miracle on 34th Street is enough to soften the most hardened of hearts. But on the other end of the scale Christmas movies are also known for their ability to bring joy, as you’d expect at this time of year, and hilarious romps such as Elf and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation are always popular choices. Home Alone remains the biggest grossing Christmas movie of all time while Love Actually tends to be voted top of the favourites lists found in women’s magazines. Whatever your favourite, it’s part of Christmas tradition, as well as a pleasant diversion from the shopping and organising, to settle down and enjoy something heart-warming at this time of year.
A varied venue…
Rather than restricting yourself to the comfort of your own lounge, why not go out for
a Christmas film and find yourself enjoying one of your favourite movies in a winter wonderland atmosphere?
Discover a forest of frosty Christmas trees, the smell of pine needles and twinkling lights at Holly Farm Garden Centre in Prees. As December dawns the whole centre is transformed with a forest of freshly cut Christmas trees, grown on site and nestled in the heart of this wintery world, you’ll find the Cinema in the Wild Woods where festive films will be showing throughout December. After dark the wintery world looks truly magical and makes an atmospheric backdrop to the family cinema evenings with warming food and a bar available too. It’s the perfect way to ease yourself into the festive season!
Book your tickets soon via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.