Cardiff – a wonderful place to live (and die)

Written by Director, Gareth Coles:

I was thrilled to announce our news earlier this month that we will be opening our second funeral home in the city in order to better service our growing customer base in Cardiff North. (You’ll soon find the new place where the Barclays Bank used to be on Heathwood Road – read the full story here >)My family and I are very happy to call Cardiff home, and having been born and brought up here I can say like many Welsh people – I’m proud of our great nation and this beautiful part of the world.

Whilst our history here in Wales is obviously closely linked with that of the rest of Britain, I recently looked into traditional Welsh funerals for a customer and discovered a few interesting customs…

As you might expect, traditionally the deceased was taken care of by the family; the body washed and placed on a table in a room where any mirrors were covered, the curtains were closed, and sweet-scented herbs filled the air. The deceased was never left alone.

The gwylnos (or wake) took place the night before the burial, when everyone gathered at the family house to be near and mourn the deceased. They presented gifts such as cake or gingerbread to the family on arrival then ate bread and cheese and drank wine/beer together whilst sharing stories of their loved one.

Before the burial, everyone ate a slice of funeral cake (I found a recipe here) with mulled wine. Then, the deceased’s family carried the body to the burial location, where Welsh prayers were said and hymns were sung. (Before leaving, everyone placed a silver coin on the gravedigger’s shovel, thanking them for their service.)

What struck me about this snippet of Welsh funeral history is the sense of community – the sense that family really matters.

Wales, and Cardiff in particular is often featured in the ‘Top 10 Polls’ – including The Guardian’s most social city, the friendliest place to live, and indeed the best place to live in the UK. What you get from reading the write-ups of these polls is that the Welsh are still known for their sense of community and their welcoming, friendly natures.

Working closely with people from all over Cardiff, from all walks of life, we know first hand just how friendly, kind and generous you are – even in your darkest times of grief. We also see how the Welsh language remains vitally important; with often non-Welsh speakers choosing Welsh hymns and prayers for the funeral service because they are familiar, comforting, and unique to the community.

One striking difference between old and new customs is that the wake (or gwylnos) is now usually held after the service.  Increasingly the families we work with consider this event just as important as the funeral service itself as family and friends from far and wide gather together to celebrate the life of their loved one. And with the rise of Direct Transfer funerals, the after-service event is in fact is becoming the focus of the day.

Knowing how important this Celebration of Life occasion is to our customers, here at Coles we have developed a network of local Cardiff suppliers who can host and cater for these events – and we can tailor the arrangements to your specific needs. Just ask the team for details….

In our next blog I’ll be looking at the bereavement services that we have on our doorstep as we focus this month on Cardiff being both a wonderful place to live, and to die…