“sleek and long as jaguars and horrible whiskered, spitting and snarling they would slink and sidle over white back-garden walls”

(From A Child’s Christmas in Wales By Dylan Thomas. Illustrations by Fritz Eichenburg. A New Directions Book, 1969)

Santa’s reindeer went weird when they got to Wales. Just like Santa switched between Father Christmas or Sinte Klaas or the Tomten on his time-cheating, badly parking, parcel bashing, fake note leaving delivery run around the world, so his reindeers grew or shrank or changed colour or name or species according to local custom.

But in Wales they went really weird. Everything does eventually. Having removed every workable ounce of coal that soaked up the intestinal juices of the nation’s psyche, by midwinter the entire principality was caught up in a fever dream. Santa, known as Siôn Corn and clad in filthy moleskins, scrabbled his way down chimneys and blinked in the greasy candlelight of cottages and council estates and the country retreats of London bankers.

Meanwhile the reindeers, some spotted others striped, befanged and with barbed wire and bloody feathers caught in their crooked antlers, stalked across the land leaving no tracks. Rudolph, the leader, his nose swollen and angry, took the form of a bear and raked the dreams of sleeping children with his twisted claws.

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