With the centenary of Dylan Thomas’ birth being celebrated in 2014 and Christmas nearly here, it seems appropriate to be reading one of his enduring and celebrated works; A Child’s Christmas in Wales.
A prose work, based on a piece written for radio, Dylan Thomas recorded it in 1952. The story is a recollection of Christmas from the point of view of a young child and is a romaticised version of Christmases past, portraying a nostalgic and simpler time.
He recalls, perhaps as many of us do, that it ‘was always snowing at Christmas’ but not just any old snow, he says ‘December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers’.
With his friends he gets up to mischief, running around their little Welsh town, ‘our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball cats’. Perhaps the town is Laugharne, in Carmarthenshire, where he lived at The Boathouse and worked steadily in the Writing Shed with its inspiring views of the estuaries leading to Carmarthen Bay.
There are comical characters; the aunt who likes a drop of parsnip wine, The Uncles, ‘there are always uncles at Christmas’, Auntie Bessie, terrified of a clockwork mouse, Auntie Dosie who had to have three asprins.
Not forgetting the presents – ‘Useful Presents: engulfing mufflers of the old coach days, and mittens made for giant sloths’. Then the ‘Useless presents: a false nose and a tram-conductor’s cap and a machine that punched tickets and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, by mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet; and a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound’.
Finally, Christmas comes to a close and the town settles down to a quiet and peaceful night in a passage which echoes of nostalgia: ‘Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-coloured snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept’.
Take a tour and see Dylan Thomas’ Boathouse for yourself.
Stay in a Cottage in the area
Follow the West Wales Dylan Thomas Trail
Visit the Dylan Thomas Centre