“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 the magic that is Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Originally written as a radio play, he later published it as a story. This short piece isn’t about any particular holiday, but the memories of many magical Christmases as recounted to a young child.
The narrator clearly remembers the overwhelming joy of his childhood holidays, and his young listener responds enthusiastically. There are stories of pelting cats with snowballs and the dining room catching on fire. “Something was burning all right; perhaps it was Mr. Prothero, who always slept there after midday dinner with a newspaper over his face. But he was standing in the middle of the room, saying, ‘A fine Christmas!’ and smacking at the smoke with a slipper.” The only presents our narrator ever received, it seems, were “useless” sweaters, mufflers, and “And pictureless books in which small boys, though warned with quotations not to, would skate on Farmer Giles' pond and did and drowned; and books that told me everything about the wasp, except why.”
Every year I look forward to the childish joy in both narrator and listener, particularly the insistence that it always snowed at Christmas, and the snow was infinitely better than the kind that falls now. "Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss …” Now that I think of it, the same is true of the snows from my childhood Christmases. Thomas’ story ends with the magical sleep of the night after Christmas. “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.”
Merry Christmas, Friend