Today in Christmastide is a rather quiet one in Christianity. In the Catholic tradition it is the Feast of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church. It is a day to celebrate the virtue of friendship. Christmastide does indeed focus us on the memories of family and friends. Over many years the happenings of this season become riveted in our memories as significant and unforgettable emotional events. In the quiet hours following Christmas Day and the coming of the new year, I sit conversing with the faces in the fire. My thoughts meander over those Christmases past, of friends one time near and dear now lost in time, of family and our traditions in America now reaching their eleventh generation.
Although German traditions remain strong in our family one of my dearest memories is that of my Welsh bloodline introduced by my grandmother's parents who immigrated to the United States from Cardiff, Wales, in the early 1870's. Although I don't remember my grandmother - she died before my second birthday - my father always reminded me of her Celtic pride and Welsh ancestry expressed especially in a love for song and singing. It wasn't until the 20th century that Wales produced artists in English who were know internationally. One of them was was the poet, Dylan Thomas, whose compelling recitations approached hypnosis where words became song.
My family likely became aware of Thomas through his trips to the U.S. made over a span of about four years beginning in 1950. His trips always made sensational news for he was not only a rising star worshiped in metropolitan and university salons but also a boisterous character prone to drunkenness and colorful language. Indeed, his trip in 1953 ended in death from pneumonia while in New York. One could say he covered the full spectrum of life and when he spoke of it in verse or prose he made music. I first heard Thomas reading his work in elementary school English class sometime in the mid-1950's. I've read and listened to him since then. What follows has been a favorite Thomas story in my family for over sixty years. In that time I read it or portions of it to women I loved, to a thousand students, and to my children.
When Dylan Thomas brings voice to his work it makes for some of the finest readings in the English language. When he reads A Child's Christmas in Wales it is magic. It is my gift to you in this holy season. . .
. . . as is this interpretation of the music of the season by the internationally known Rhos Orpheus Male Choir headquartered in Rhosllannerchrugog, Wrecsam, Wales.
Photos and Illustrations:
themagpiesfantasy.blogspot.com; photo still from Marvin Lightner production of A child's Christmas in Wales, 1963.