Dylan Thomas – A child’s Christmas in Wales

A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Gillian Clark’s The Christmas Wren. For a flavour of Christmas in Wales these are two magical tales of Christmases of a Welsh childhood. Not the modern day Christmas, but how Christmas was.

A Child’s Christmas in Wales is a prose work by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Originally emerging from a piece written for radio, it was recorded by Thomas in 1952. The story is an anecdotal retelling of a Christmas from the view of a young child. It is a romanticised version of Christmases past, portraying a nostalgic and simpler time. It is one of Thomas’s most popular works.

Like his poetry, A Child’s Christmas in Wales does not have a narrative structure but contains several descriptive passages designed to create an emotive sense of nostalgia. The story is told from the viewpoint of the author recounting a festive season as a young boy in a fictionalised autobiographical style. In the first passage Thomas searches for a nostalgic Western belief in Christmas past with the line. “It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas”. He furthers the idyllic memory of childhood past by describing the snow as being better and more exciting than the snow that is experienced as an adult. The prose is comedic with exaggerated characters, used either for comedic effect or to show how childhood memories are enlarged due to youthful interpretation.

The Christmas Wren

Gillian Clark is National Poet for Wales and in 2012 was commissioned by the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea to write a response to Dylan’s story. The result was The Christmas Wren. 

Her tale like Thomas’s is populated by aunts and uncles, snow and starlight and characterised by the magic of the season. Of her response Clark says:

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‘All I knew was my story had to be my own truth. It had to sing like Christmas as I knew it. Because Christmas is a winter festival that recurs every year of our lives. We remember and forget it. It is a starburst bright enough to cause a gasp of pleasure. Brief enough to be lost in darkness with a sigh. Leaving its glamour to be packed away in January for another year. All that remains is stardust on our fingers, glitter at the bottom of a box in the attic. and the voices of people who gathered briefly around us.’

If you feel the consumerism of modern life has usurped the magic of Christmas then these are for you. These two poets offer a taste of the romance and magic of simpler times. When Christmas didn’t start in November! Or in some places, even September!