Poetry 128: Mother Christmas by Roald Dahl


“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!”

Dahl wrote this poem in 1988 for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, so it seems right to provide the link for their charity page.

Image courtesy of Google Images (Licence Free).

About Richard Flanagan

I’m an Operating Department Practitioner who works for my local NHS trust in Shropshire, UK. I’m married with two young children (plus two dogs and a corn snake) and am currently undertaking an Open University degree in History. I listen to a lot of music of all genres, but especially Rock (Punk, Alternative etc.) and enjoy cooking, eating and drinking. Although I don’t consider myself to be a Buddhist I am interested in some Buddhist ideas and practices. As such, I was briefly active with Secular Buddhism UK and it was through that group that I came to be involved with the Middle Way Society.

4 thoughts on “Poetry 128: Mother Christmas by Roald Dahl

  1. I love Dahl’s irreverent humour, but sometimes his language goes too far and becomes gratingly puerile. This poem has a lot to say about patriarchal assumptions, but I really don’t like the last line.

  2. I can’t really disagree with what you write (although I don’t really find his puerility grating), after recently reading Dahl to my Son I was taken aback by how offensive he is to my adult ears. However, I have very fond memories of reading him as a child. I loved his ability to smash through adult pretensions and his challenges to authority. Offensiveness and puerility seem to form part of his methods, as do the use of one dimensional, unpleasant characters, with no redeeming features, with the exception of the children and a select few adults. It was the centenary of his birth this year, so it seemed fitting for that reason. It also provides a break form the usual Christmas Jollity. I’m sure that his heart’s in right place, and I imagine the last line to be followed by the sticking out of the tongue and a loud raspberry. I also like the playful kicking of the patriarchy, even if it is done in a rather childish and crude way! He does deal in absolutes and extremes, so in this sense he is not very Middle Way, however I wanted to choose something that had a very different tone to the Maya Angelou poem, and I feel that I have at least succeeded in that. Merry Christmas everyone.

    1. Well said, Rich! I’m not a Dahl fan myself, but I do think he hits the right buttons for children of a certain age, with his mixture of childish whimsy and ballsy humour, calculated to make kids guffaw with delight. “That unmitigated jerk” is in the adult lexicon, but on the lips of adults (and shared with other adults) often enough in a child’s earshot for them to recognise its derision, especially about Father Christmas of whom adults usually speak to their kids with mushy sentiment.

      As to the Middle Way, your comment made me wonder if, in a parallel (Dahlian?) universe the Middle Way is the default way of thinking for everyone, woven inextricably into every institution and every human utterance; and somewhere on a wind-swept hillside there is a young philosopher-genius writing treatises on the huge significance and importance of puerile twaddle and corny absolutist juxtapositions, especially irritating ones.

      I know, I know! I accept that the Middle Way doesn’t encourage absolutist positions by anyone on anything….and if ‘Parables of the Middle Way’ had an illustrator like Dahl it would probably sell as many copies as Chocolate Factory, and even get a film rights bid from Pixar Inc.

      and a Happy New Year to you all from me :)

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