|It is Christmas 1899, Victoria is still on the throne and the new century is fast approaching. The snow is falling heavily. Carriages move slowly, depositing their wealthy occupants in the finest emporia. Fur and velvet protect the fortunate. Provisioners vie for their custom. Not one perceives the urchin, ragged, frozen, huddled in a darkened doorway.
Laden with parcels, carried by liveried footmen, the fortunate enter their four storey, single family, homes. Wreath adorned doors are opened by the servant class, bowing and scraping, grateful for a position. They perceive the urchins and pray they too will not meet their fate.
Only streets away ramshackle dwellings do little to shelter their many inhabitants. One room per family, shared outhouse if they are lucky; there are no wreaths on these doors.
It is Christmas 1939. The war they said would be over by now has entered a new phase. Now everybody is involved in the war effort. Rationing, make-do-and-mend are the order of the day. Home-made wreaths adorn the doors of those lucky enough to have a door. Luxuries still fall into the hands of those who know who to ask and can pay the price.
Jane Smith was born that Christmas. The sound of sirens were her lullabies. The air raid shelter was her nursery. Her bedtime stories were her grandmother's tales of Christmas 1899. She recalled the wreaths bedecking the homes of the wealthy. She remembered the freezing urchins; she had been one of them. Somehow she had survived.
Jane had no memory of the making of the wreath, or the ceremony involved in its hanging. As she grew she became aware of its importance to her grandmother. The carefully wrapped object would take pride of place amongst the other ornamentation of Christmas, belieing its humble beginnings as twig, pine cone and ribbon. It had become the symbol of Christmas past. When the bombing started, it sheltered with the family. They lost the door but not the wreath.
It is Christmas 1959 and another child is welcomed into the family by the wreath. It is Jane's turn to make-and-mend as the wreath starts to show its age. It could have been replaced by a plastic monstrosity but that just would not do. Rationing is over and food is plentiful for those who can afford it. Jane is one of the lucky few to own her home; the first in the family to do so. Her grandmother hangs the family wreath on Jane's door with much pomp and circumstance.
It is Christmas 1999. Two more generations have been welcomed by the wreath. Still it survives. Jane's grandmother celebrated her 100th birthday a few months before. It is Jane's turn for the ceremonial hanging this year whilst the old lady looks on from her wheelchair.
The storm was unexpected. Rain and wind kept people from their Christmas revelries. Grandmother had taken to her bed. It was a strong gust that took the wreath, depositing it in a deep puddle. Grandmother began coughing and spluttering. A swirl took the wreath along the gutter, toward the drain. Grandmother struggled to breathe and an ambulance was called. Too late for the old lady and too late for the wreath as it gurgled down the drain.
Now a new wreath hangs on the door; not a Christmas wreath, a funereal one, adorned with black ribbon.