It’s officially Christmas here at the Roald Dahl Museum! To celebrate this, and the release of My Year, we’re sharing some festive treats from the archive.
In My Year, Roald Dahl writes an entry for each month of the year describing his favourite things, memories and experiences. In his entry for December, he writes:
I approve very much of children who make their own Christmas cards, and whenever I get one of those I am deeply touched because I know the time and effort that has gone into making it
Roald Dahl loved receiving Christmas cards from his fans. In his opinion, Christmas cards – especially handmade ones – were the best gifts you could receive at Christmas, and categorically the best thing about the festive period.
Roald kept nearly all the handmade cards, pictures and letters sent to him by his young fans, and he kept his absolute favourites in pride of place on the walls of his Writing Hut.
The now faded handmade greetings card pictured above was made by a child, artfully decorated with four blobs of cotton wool and sent to Roald. We don’t know who made it, but he was obviously charmed by it. You can also see a little strip of embroidery he kept on the wall too, cross-stitched in red canvas.
Roald Dahl loved letters, and wrote to his mother regularly throughout his life. In the lead up to Christmas as a young boy he was very certain about what he wanted for Christmas. Like any young boy, when he saw something he especially wanted, he made sure to remind his Mama, Sofie Magdalene Dahl.
In the letter pictured above, sent in 1929, at the age of 13, Roald asks for a “Mashie-Niblick” - a type of golf club, and a “decent book”. Roald was a voracious reader and books often feature in his Christmas and birthday wish lists.
As an adult, Roald worked in Africa, in what is now Tanzania, and even whilst there Sofie would ask him what he wanted for Christmas. In 1938 Roald Dahl replied:
Don’t know… yes, I think I’d like some Dirmal[?] shirts – white or yellowish (the colour of my vests). A Public School Explorers Tie – can’t think of anything else… Of course, I know what I want. Large, good photos of all of you.
Not being with his family for Christmas day was always hard for Roald, as he was extremely close to Sofie and his siblings. He always sent a Christmas card or telegram back home to his family from wherever in the world he was, sometimes in a festive envelope, like this one below.
Later in life, in 1988, he collaborated with Quentin Blake to make a charity Christmas card for Great Ormond Street Hospital. It featured a fun little rhyme celebrating Mother Christmas, the true unsung heroine of Christmas…
“Where art thou, Mother Christmas?
I only wish I knew
Why Father should get all the praise
And no one mentions you.
I’ll bet you buy the presents
And wrap them large and small
While all the time that rotten swine
Pretends he’s done it all.
So Hail to Mother Christmas
Who shoulders all the work!
And down with Father Christmas,
That unmitigated jerk!”
You can buy some cards with the poem in from the Shop - with proceeds supporting Roald Dahl's Marvellous Children's Charity.
From all of us here at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, we would like to wish everyone an excellent festive period, and we hope to see you in the New Year!