Can We Have Our Christmas Back Please – The Way Dylan Thomas Wrote It?

It is 9 am on a Sunday morning and my inbox is full of Christmas offers for clothes I could never afford, food I’d never dream of eating and presents which would last precisely two minutes before being constructively destroyed by Ieuan in his ongoing quest to find out how things work.

Some companies are even claiming that I need to order now in time for Christmas which rather implies they need Hilary Devey to sort their freight logistics out since it is only the 24th of November. What network are they using? A hoard of one legged, disenfranchised elves (probably admitted to the country by the Home Secretary on the grounds that wearing tinkly bells constitutes some form of repression)? I’m sure the Daily Mail’s columnist Littlejohn will put us straight on that one shortly. 

But isn’t it strange how the more we buy, the more we eat, the more we drink, the less satisfying Christmas seems to be. 


Baby Ieuan in his Christmas hat in 2009
Ieuan’s first Christmas in 2009

In fact, we’re lucky we can even call it Christmas because left to some councils the festive season would be some ghastly multi denominational TV fest with a microwaveable chicken dinner and a rubbery pudding all washed down with non alcoholic lager and a never ending tin of out of date nuts. Christmas cards of the future are likely to feature council leaders and particularly scenic multi-storey car parks. 

Now, I don’t know if they’ve noticed, but Christmas is a Christian festival. There is after all a whacking great clue in the name, although the bleedin’ obvious seems to frequently bypass our councils, viz, if you leave wheelie bin rubbish for two weeks at a stretch during a hot summer it tends to pong and attract vermin.

We’ve ended up with a sort of, ironically, low fat Christmas except it’s got none of the taste and all of the calories. What I think we really miss is nostalgia. The real reason Christmas seemed to start on the 1st of November this year is that we are anticipation junkies. We love the waiting, the hoping, the general bonhomie that even the grumpiest among us seem to manage a modicom of. 

For many, of course, this time of year is a pretty lonely and miserable one, made even more so by the ever increasing rampant materialism, and the reduction in what used to be a sort of spiritual and moral benchmark, that is to say, the community created by church going and the regular practising of faith, only seems to highlight the isolation and alienation many must feel.

It’s no coincidence that, at least in our house, the TV programmes we love to watch at Christmas are the old favourites. I particularly like the Christmas episode of Midsomer Murders set in a country house where the brother had been denied a fulfilling career as a magician and his surviving family subsequently peg it in-between Midnight Mass and the Boxing Day Hunt. Don’t move to Midsomer. The properties look lovely but I shouldn’t bother registering to pay council tax as you won’t be around long enough to receive your Christmas card with Midsomer Council’s Chief Exec on the front. Or the old episodes of Morecambe & Wise with Andre ‘Preview’ and Shirley Bassey? Every time the film “Elf” is shown on TV, the Twittersphere fills up with people saying how much they love it. Nostalgia wins hands down over novelty every time.

Would we enjoy Christmas more if we went back to putting up tinsel in December rather than September? If we sent cards rather than e-cards? If we occasionally remembered and celebrated what Christmas is actually about?

I’ll leave it to one of Wales’ literary greats, Dylan Thomas, to give you an idea of what, to me, nostalgia sounds like in his magical “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”.

“Get back to the Presents.”

“There were the Useful Presents: engulfing mufflers of the old coach days, and mittens made for giant sloths; zebra scarfs of a substance like silky gum that could be tug-o’-warred down to the galoshes; blinding tam-o’-shanters like patchwork tea cozies and bunny-suited busbies and balaclavas for victims of head-shrinking tribes; from aunts who always wore wool next to the skin there were mustached and rasping vests that made you wonder why the aunts had any skin left at all; and once I had a little crocheted nose bag from an aunt now, alas, no longer whinnying with us. 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.”

“Go on the Useless Presents.”

“Bags of moist and many-colored jelly babies and a folded flag and a false nose and a tram-conductor’s cap and a machine that punched tickets and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, by mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet; and a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound, a mewing moo that an ambitious cat might make who wished to be a cow; and a painting book in which I could make the grass, the trees, the sea and the animals any colour I pleased, and still the dazzling sky-blue sheep are grazing in the red field under the rainbow-billed and pea-green birds. Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches, cracknels, humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh for the Welsh. And troops of bright tin soldiers who, if they could not fight, could always run. And Snakes-and-Families and Happy Ladders. And Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Engineers, complete with instructions. Oh, easy for Leonardo! And a whistle to make the dogs bark to wake up the old man next door to make him beat on the wall with his stick to shake our picture off the wall. And a packet of cigarettes: you put one in your mouth and you stood at the corner of the street and you waited for hours, in vain, for an old lady to scold you for smoking a cigarette, and then with a smirk you ate it. And then it was breakfast under the balloons.”

– A Child’s Christmas in Wales – Dylan Thomas 

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