Christmas in Wales

Child's Christmas in Wales

In her monthly series, Justine Wall shares ideas on how to interpret some of the best books for children. The activities are intended to be read by, or to, your child, depending on age.

No 3: A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas

The Story

Along with Under Milkwood, A Child’s Christmas in Wales is possibly one of Dylan Thomas’s most loved works and is a lilting, nostalgic and evocative tale of a childhood Christmas remembered. More an interpretation of people and their behaviour than of Christmas traditions, Thomas takes us on a snowy journey through the eyes of a young boy in 1920s Wales.

Although specific to an area, Thomas’s writing transcends geography: immersing us in his verses filled with snow and tin soldiers, readers can identify with the Christmas he evokes. This book is perfect for the whole family, and must be read aloud. Thomas’s work is meant for voices: try alternating lines or pages with younger readers, or get them to read the speech while you read the descriptions. This year we celebrated Dylan Thomas’s centenary, what better way to honour him than to introduce new readers.

Talking points

  • Is there such a thing as a Christmas Feeling?
  • Why do we like snow?
  • Why do we give each other presents at Christmas time?
  • What do you think the song about Bleeding Hearts and Death was about?
  • Why do we tend to eat and drink more at Christmas time?
  • Why are there always “Uncles at Christmas”?
  • What would you do if you saw two hippos?

MrFoxmagazine-Christmas-wales

Activities

We give people presents at Christmas time, often to show them that we love them. Sometimes we can buy presents, and sometimes we can make them. This year, try to make something small for all of the people in your family: whether it be a drawing of yourself for your Granny, a handmade bracelet for your mum, or a bookmark that you have decorated for your sister, try to put some thought into it. Wrap it up and write the gift tag for the person, explaining that you have made the gift especially for them.

Christmas is a time to show appreciation for what we have, and also for what people do for us. Think about everyone in your family, and also your close friends, and what they have done for you throughout 2014. Buy a pack of postcards, or make them yourself, and write each person a postcard, thanking them. You may write one to your brother, thanking him for helping you with your tennis, or you could write one to your mother, thanking her for cooking delicious meals. Decorate the postcard with Christmas themed motifs like stars, snowflakes and wreaths, and post them.

We often wish for snow at Christmas time: it seems magical. In A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Dylan Thomas uses a wide variety of descriptive words and phrases for snow, such as ‘shaken from whitewash buckets’, ‘wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays’ and a ‘thunderstorm of white, torn Christmas cards.’ Go through the book again, and write down all of the words and phrases used for snow. Take a large amount of white paper or card, write the words and phrases onto the paper in large box or bubble letters, or use stencils, and cut these words out of the paper. Stick the words up on windows and doors, as though the words themselves are snowflakes.

We often wish for snow at Christmas time: it seems magical. In A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Dylan Thomas uses a wide variety of descriptive words and phrases for snow, such as ‘shaken from whitewash buckets’, ‘wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays’ and a ‘thunderstorm of white, torn Christmas cards.’ Go through the book again, and write down all of the words and phrases used for snow. Take a large amount of white paper or card, write the words and phrases onto the paper in large box or bubble letters, or use stencils, and cut these words out of the paper. Stick the words up on windows and doors, as though the words themselves are snowflakes.

 Most families, whether big or small, include lots of different sorts of people: grumpy people, happy people, small people, big people, loud people, quiet people: we are all different, and that’s what makes families so special. In A Child’s Christmas in Wales, we meet and hear about a great deal of people and creatures: Mrs Prothero, Jim, Ernie Jenkins, Miss Prothero, Mr Daniels, postmen and firemen, hippos and cats, to name just a few.

Go through the whole book and write down all of the people and animals that we meet. Then take a large sheet of paper, and draw, colour and label each character. You should land up with a page filled with people and animals. Try to imagine what they may look like, even if Dylan Thomas hasn’t described them in detail.

Dylan Thomas is a hugely loved and respected poet and writer, and what a lot of people love about his writing, is that he was brilliant at creating rhythm. He somehow knew which words sounded blissful together, which creates a beautiful rhyme to his writing, especially when read aloud. If you are a new reader, choose a few lines to learn from the book, if you have been reading for a while choose longer pieces.

Learn the lines: keep saying them over and over again until you don’t need the book in front of you at all. Make sure you use a lot of expression when reading your lines. You may need a grown-up’s help for this, get them to learn some lines too.

Justine Wall is a teacher, designer and writer. She has a 6 year old son. Her perfect winter Sunday is spent cooking for friends followed by a blustery walk on Salisbury Plain. Follow Justine on Instagram @hectorandhaddock and twitter on @HectorHaddock or visit Hector and Haddock.

How often do you read with your child? Is there a book that you would like Justine to explore? Let us know below.

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