Christmas in Herefordshire
PUBLISHED: 14:43 26 November 2010 | UPDATED: 16:23 20 February 2013
At this special time of year Chris Poole looks at some of the events and activities that mark our distinctive region.
Appropriately enough for the town of books it is shop windows that take centre stage in Hay at Christmas. With shop windows dressed seasonally there will be an added dimension to the competition for the best-dressed window this year. Each window will have somewhere in it an item that doesnt belong to that particular business. Children are invited to spot the unusual feature. John Evans, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, explains: Our shopkeepers, from butchers to booksellers, are so enthusiastic and really enter into the spirit of this seasonal event.
One of our most enduring of Christmas scenes is The Hunt. Nowhere is this more evident than in Ledbury where, on Boxing Day morning, the Ledbury Hunt attracts hundreds of supporters as it assembles outside the black and white grandeur of The Feathers Hotel. Honorary Secretary Helen Smith says: There have been changes in the law, with which we fully comply, but our membership and supporters in Ledbury have gone from strength to strength. It is so much a part of the Christmas tradition and of the rural landscape.
Voluntary work and goodwill dominate Monmouth during the festive season. This county town celebrates in traditional style starting with dignitaries and townspeople assembling by candlelight at Castle Square and a Christmas procession through the streets. Councillor Anthea Dewhurst says: This year our procession will make its way through the town to the famous Monnow Bridge. There the Mayor will formally open the proceedings with children and the town band ready to entertain all with seasonal music and songs. Monmouths Christmas procession will start at 6 pm on December 15.
Music and poetry feature strongly during the Christmas season in this charming Welsh town. On December 11 the choir of The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama will perform carols, starting at 7.30 in the evening. A week later, on 18 December, the Theatr Brycheiniog at the canal basin will host the Syd Lawrence orchestra playing the music of Glen Miller alongside seasonal favourites in a Mistletoe and Miller concert. But no Welsh Christmas should be without Dylan Thomass A Childs Christmas in Wales. And this will be part of an evening dedicated to this most famous of Welshmen at the theatre on December 16.
While High Street markets and activities abound, Christmas in Chepstow is made even more special by a visit to the racecourse. On December 5 the race meeting will be more than just an opportunity to have a flutter but to do some Christmas shopping too. There will be a Christmas market in the old parade ring with traditional crafts, foods and drink. Mulled wine and carols performed by the Salvation Army Band will complete the spirit of the season. Gates open at 10.30am with the first race at noon and gates closing at about 4pm.
There is a very active Events Committee in Abergavenny ensuring that no effort is spared to celebrate Christmas in style. Following a successful pattern set last year even more is planned for Christmas 2009 with street entertainers and a shop window dressing competition with a nativity theme. During the run up to Christmas the entertainers will be in the town on the five consecutive Saturdays starting from the official turning on of the Christmas lights at 4pm on 21st November. The Mayor will then lead a lighted parade through the streets accompanied by costumed characters. Carols around the towns Christmas tree will set the tone for a happy and hearty season in Abergavenny.
The origins of the Christmas tree tradition are thought to be in medieval Germany. From the banks of the Rhine to our own Wye valley is not so far and in Ross-on-Wye a week-long Christmas tree festival will start during the last weekend of November. Churchwarden Tim Waters explains: Last year we had more than 50 trees in the church (St Mary the Virgin) each one supplied and decorated by an organisation or business or an individual. We try to fill the week with events in the church. This year there will be a sing-it-yourself Messiah on Sunday, November 29 anyone who fancies an opportunity to sing The Messiah can join rehearsals from 12.30pm that day with the performance taking place in the evening.
The Ross Christmas Shopping Festival, organised by The Association of Ross Traders (A.R.T) will be held on Sunday, December 6 from 11am to 4pm. The town will be lit up with its new white LED lights and there will be mince pies, mulled wine and discount and special Christmas offers. Activities will centre around the Market House where there will stalls selling local crafts, charity Christmas cards, crepes, preserves, sauces, chestnuts and other festive items. Special events including a roadshow presented by the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offering craft activities for children. Children can get their face painted and several musical presentations are being organised including The Drybrook Brass Band, The Ross Choral Society and The Penyard Singers. A.R.T. have also organised a 1,000 prize raffle, which will be drawn on the day.
The Bromyard Chamber of Commerce has recently elected a new Chairman, Paul Webster. He talks with enthusiasm of business in Bromyard: Im delighted that business activity here has been so resilient this year. To mark our Christmas we will again have the pleasure of Lady Darnley opening the festive season for us with a ceremony on Saturday, November 21. Im confident that our businesses will join together in celebrating the season and approach the New Year with a renewed sense of optimism. Bromyards Conquest Theatre has some unusual Christmas fare a production of Terry Pratchetts Wyrd Sisters complete with witchcraft and sorcery on 17, 18 and 19 December.
Nobody knows how many people in our region hug or talk to the trees. But here in Herefordshire we go one better we sing to them. Wassailing is an ancient custom, celebrated on Twelfth Night, to express thanks for the apple season just ended and to encourage a bountiful crop in the year ahead. City-dwellers may be unfamiliar with the custom but in Hereford they can get a flavour of it at the Cider Museum. On Thursday, December 3, the museum will host a Christmas food and drink fair. Margaret Thompson, the Director, explains the seasonal links between Christmas and cider: Wassailing is certainly an old and much loved custom. For those who havent tried it mulled cider at this time of year is fantastic and what better way to enjoy your Christmas pudding than to flame it using cider brandy?
That Queen Victoria should put in an appearance in Leominster at Christmas comes as no surprise to the people of that town. Its Victorian street market has been running for years and would hardly be complete without Her Majesty otherwise known as Maureen Crumpler and many other characters in period costume. This year the market will be on December 12. Leading the Leominster Attractions Group, Molly Cooke (who also appears as a Victorian parlour maid) says: Its such a part of Christmas in Leominster that we cant really imagine the town without it and well put on our best possible show come rain, snow or shine.