A Christmas Story for the Senses: Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”

Dec 15, 2020 | Posted by Jennifer


As time seems to speed up the closer we get to the holidays, many educators are preparing special class sessions to celebrate the season with their students. Some plan a class period playing games; others enjoy sharing a special movie. And many bake sweet treats or share small gifts as well. I have my own little tradition I’ve honed over the years. I share a story.

This particular story, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” is a treat for the senses. It transports the listeners out of their environment (always a welcome escape when one lives in a decidedly un-Christmas-like part of the world). Living in Florida as I do, I wrap my palm trees rather than an evergreen in lights, and as I do, I’m usually wearing shorts to combat the heat, so any escape to a wintery, Christmassy place makes for a delicious diversion. December in Wales certainly fits the bill.

Born in Swansea, Wales, Dylan Thomas lived from 1914 to 1953, dying at the young age of thirty-nine. He is largely considered to be one of the greatest Welsh poets of all time. Reading his story, one can’t help but notice how he was a master wordsmith, crafting his words to create distinct and vivid imagery. The story abounds with literary devices. Alliteration, similes and metaphors, five-senses words, onomatopoeia, personification, allusion, and assonance spill over the page to construct exquisite word pictures.

This year I am teaching literature and essay writing to a group of high school students at a local co-op. We’ve enjoyed the first half of the year learning about literature using Teaching the Classics as our spine, so with our class having already explored literary devices, I knew that reading Thomas’ memoir about a childhood Christmas would be a great way to extend their learning. That, and reading the story has always been something my students, from Level B through C, have greatly enjoyed. Today as I began, the students settled in and quieted down. You could hear a pin drop as I read Thomas’ recollections about Mrs. Prothero’s fire, the “shawling snow,” and the long list of Christmas gifts and goodies from bygone days.

Even though my students are in high school and have solid vocabularies, there are some older words that aren’t used much in modern conversation, so before reading the story, I always take a moment to define these words as well as any outdated conventions. Once those tricky terms are described, terms such as “bombilating,” “celluloid,” and “festoons,” I begin to read:

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. All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find.

Thus begins the tale. Approximately twenty minutes later, I conclude, and for a moment it is quiet. We shake ourselves to and come back to Florida, palm trees, and English classrooms.

This year I assigned my high school students a writing exercise to amplify the experience. I’d like to share it with you in case you want to include something like this with your students. I think it’s important to share with you that my students have already had exposure to adding these stylistic techniques into their writing. If they are new to yours, you may want to simply share the story and keep it at that. I have deliberately kept my checklist more relaxed than I typically do, so bear that in mind as well. Feel free to adjust it to keep it EZ+1.

Happily, Thomas’ story is in the public domain, so you don’t even need to purchase a copy. That being said, I do love this small gift version. The illustrations are beautiful. Another idea is to let the poet himself read it to your students. Thomas was recorded reading the story, and you can listen to it here. His voice is rich and carries a gorgeous Welsh accent that this midwestern gal cannot even hope to imitate!

However you choose to spend that last class day with your students before the break, I hope you have a great time. It’s fun to take a day to do something special. So whether you read this story, another one of your choosing, watch a movie, play a game, hold a raffle, or do something else, have fun with your students, and enjoy a great holiday break!

Your assignment for this week is to write your own Christmastime recollection. I am deliberately keeping this assignment loosely structured. Here are the minimum requirements:

  • Write it in MLA Style. (2 points)

  • Title it. I suggest you observe the IEW title rule by repeating or reflecting one to three words from the last sentence. (3 points)

  • Write a minimum of three paragraphs. There is no maximum, but keep it realistic. (30 points)

  • Write your recollection using Dylan Thomas’ tale “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” as your inspiration. Thomas made copious use of stylistic techniques. I want you to do the same! Include AT LEAST five of these techniques. Indicate them by italicizing them and writing the code (indicated below) after them (5 points per element for a total of 25 points):

    • alliteration (allit.)

    • simile (sim.)

    • metaphor (met.)

    • five-senses words (5-sen.)

    • onomatopoeia (onom.)

    • vocabulary (voc.): I suggest you pull out a thesaurus for this.

    • imagery (imag.)

    • personification (pers.)

    • allusion (allus.)

    • assonance (asson.)

  • Have your editor check for grammar, spelling, and other mechanics. (5 points, minus 1 point for each error above 3 errors)

  • Illustrate it for 5 points extra credit.

  • For 10 points’ extra credit, share it in our Google Classroom announcement space so that others can enjoy your recollections as well. Do not feel compelled to do this, but don’t feel shy either!


“A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas
Composition Checklist

MLA Style

2 points



3 points


Minimum 3 paragraphs

30 points


Style (italicized) min. of five

25 points total (5 points each)


alliteration (allit.)



simile (sim.)



metaphor (met.)



five-senses (5-sen.)



onomatopoeia (onom.)



vocabulary (voc.)



imagery (imag.)



personification (pers.)



allusion (allus.)



assonance (asson.)



(5 points, minus 1 point above 3 errors)


Total points




  • 5 points


Shared in Classroom?

  • 10 points


Adjusted total




Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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