For many people the fireplace, as well as the Christmas tree, plays a crucial role in Christmas celebrations. After all, both go back to the earlier pagan Yuletide festival when a large log or, in some cases, a whole tree was burnt in an open hearth over a number of days. Today, whether we have a real fire or not, the mantel is often a focal point for festive decoration and adornment. Here we feature five such mantels, each beautifully decorated for Christmas in unique, innovative ways.
Committed to conserving Bermudian craft and culture, Ronnie Chameau has long been famous for her traditional Bermuda dolls and Christmas angels, crafted out of palmetto and banana leaves. “Our home in Bermuda dates back to the seventeenth century so my crafts fit well in our house,” she explains. And that is especially true at Christmas when her own creations appear in her mantel decorations. “Every year I change the decor but I still use all natural material.” That means, of course, dried palmetto leaves, sometimes plaited, dried banana and magnolia leaves and berries or tiny cones from our casuarina trees.
But married to Frenchman Michel Chameau, she also includes in her mantel decorations pinecones they found together many years ago in the forest of Fontainebleau in France. “I have never seen cones as large as the ones we found in Fontainebleau,” she says. This year the mantelpiece arrangement echoes the rich colours of the fireplace surround and the picture of dancing figures above. One of her angels, sprayed gold, dominates each end of the mantel (“Angels are always welcome,” she laughs) while the coppery folds and turns of magnolia leaves make an interesting backdrop to the piled gold cones and berries. The whole effect is charming, taking you back to a time when electric lights, tinsel and other synthetic materials were unheard of – to a Bermuda in time past.