Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Magic of Welsh Poetry: A Child’s Christmas in Wales

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...

These enchanting words are the opening lines of a long poem titled “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”.  The poem was written in 1952 by Dylan Thomas, a famous Welsh poet.  Dylan Thomas grew up in a small city called Swansea, in the Southern part of Wales, in the United Kingdom.  It tells the story a Christmas in the past from the perspective of a young boy. The festive time is remembered in a romantic way, as full of life and magic.
The poem is known all over Wales and the UK and has been used in schools, theatre plays, stories and even short animations.  The poem tells the story of one night where there is a fire in a neighbour’s house. This is followed by a boy telling another boy about his memories of old Christmases. Images of snow, the sea, wolves and bears, singing and music, smells and tastes are all conjured up. Local characters come in and events unfold, family members interact and presents are unwrapped.

It is popular because it shows us a Christmas from another time, a Christmas that is simpler and different to the one we celebrate today.  Dylan Thomas was born in 1914. So if some of these ideas come from a festive period he remembered as a boy, they would have been happening nearly 100 years ago. In the story we hear about sitting in front of the fire, drinking parsnip wine (parsnip is a root vegetable common in the UK) and about uncles singing and playing the fiddle (the fiddle is an instrument similar to the violin).

For many people in the UK this is very different to the way we experience Christmas now. Today Christmas is often orientated around buying many presents, consuming a lot of food and alcohol and watching television.  Of course these are all enjoyable things! However they are not so similar to the old-fashioned, simpler Christmases that our grandparents would have appreciated.
On the other hand, many people enjoy the poem because we can see the links between the “older” Christmas traditions and the same traditions that are celebrated now. For example, we still spend time together as a family, we still play games, eat turkey at dinner and exchange presents.

Another reason for the poem’s popularity is that it is written from the point of view of a child, and this is why there is a sense of magic. Christmas for a child is always unique and this feeling really comes across in the poem.

For me, I love this poem because I also grew up by the sea in Wales. When I read it it makes me feel close to my home and to the countryside. It reminds me of the specialness of being a child during the festive season, when everything seems magical.

--- So if you’re interested check out this wonderful poem! You can find it online here:

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