Monday’s Memory: A Child’s Christmas in Wales

a child's christmas in wales coverTitle: A Child’s Christmas in Wales
Author: Dylan Thomas
Publication Year: 1955

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

So begins one of the great Christmas short stories– if not the greatest Christmas short story, in my opinion– as told by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas about his memories of living at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive in the Uplands area of Swansea, Wales.

I can’t remember when I first discovered Thomas’ work,  but now it is a Christmas tradition not only to read the story, but also to hear Thomas read it in his own sonorous voice every year. My wife and I don’t have children, but if we did, we no doubt would sit down and listen to it with them. As it is, often I “force” my parents and my wife to listen to it every year– always as if it’s something they’ve never heard previously:

You’ve got to hear this. This is amazing!

And even though they usually go:

Oh, really, what is it?

And then yawn, they always enjoy it too (at least, I think they do).

As for this particular edition, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone, it is near perfect in capturing the images Thomas conjures and is the perfect companion when reading it to children.

While I could share more of this classic, of how a fire was put out by snowballs and so on and so forth, I’ll leave you with the last paragraph, which in my estimation is one of the more perfect endings to a short story (and doesn’t give away the rest of the story):

Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird’s Nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed. 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, steadily, falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the clsoe and holy darkness, and then I slept.

7 responses to “Monday’s Memory: A Child’s Christmas in Wales

  1. Pingback: TSS: Gaiman and Pratchett on their own and a book award « Unfinished Person

  2. I have this on my TBR list; I think I heard it mentioned in passing on NPR. Your description makes me want to move it up the list.

  3. I just read this one to the boys! Oh, it is soooo good. I love the poetic-like writing, it is so pretty and so descriptive in a non-cliche way. Love it!

  4. Having just come back from a three-day stint in Wales, and yes in Swansea, for work I now feel I must read this. I love the last paragraph….

  5. I’m not a big audiobook fan, but this is one I would have to read in that fashion because of Dylan Thomas’ lovely voice.

  6. My wife and I have just restored 5 Cwmdonkin Drive to its condition when bought as a new house in 1914 by the Thomas family a few months before Dylan was born in the front bedroom.

    A Child’s Christmas does really captured the ambience of the house and the area particularly now we’ve found Dylan’s secret window which was blocked up during the war (that window is the one in the piece quoted above).

    During our research we spoke with the daughter of Edward Ardizzone who said that the front cover pictures were drawn from photos and the interior drawings were from his imagination.

    We are letting Number 5 as an experiential self catering house – if you book for 22nd December 2008 you arrive on 22nd December 1914 complete with a newspaper of the day – but no tv or radio (but lots of books!)

  7. This sure sounds like a book I would like for my nephew’s Birthday along with few others. I have been on a look out for books for a 12 years old.

    Thanks!

    Good to see you posting again..