Monday, 17 December 2012

A Child's Christmas in Wales

Dylan Thomas transports us back to his childhood Christmases in his short story "A Child's Christmas in Wales".  He paints a vivid picture of what life was like in Swansea, Wales circa 1920.  You almost need a dictionary to decipher some of the terms.  Little Dylan talks about mufflers and galoshes, tom o'shanters (tams) and balaclavas (a tuque with holes for the mouth, nose and eyes).  He and his family munch on toffee, fudge and jelly bellies (jelly beans), humbugs (hard candies), marzipan and butterwelsh (hard toffee).  Some of the terms, however, are familiar to our generation such as the mistletoe in the parlour.

Little Dylan talks about leaving fresh footprints in the snow with his new boots and pondering dropping snowballs in Mr. Daniel's letter box.  Later the same snow becomes "smoke-coloured" from the coal burning in every furnace.  In a time before television, he talks about his uncle fiddling and his cousin singing "Cherry Ripe".  He tells how his relatives would recount tall tales "by the fire as the gaslight bubbled".

He also talks about carolling in the darkened streets.  He and his fellow carollers deliver a rendition of "Good King Wenceslas" to a closed door at one household that inspires the occupant to sing along through the keyhole, terrifying the youngster with his gravelly voice.  He describes the streets of Wales filled with chapel goers and children with "bare red fingers".

Little Dylan arrives home, inhaling the scents of Christmas:  gravy, bird, brandy, pudding and mince.   We can picture the lad in his cozy house with the snow covered rooftop sipping hot cocoa in front of a roaring fire surrounded by his family.

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