“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”
I was feeling a bit restless the other night, so instead of starting another classic from my list and being bogged down by obligation, I took my copy of A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens off the shelf. The beautiful white book had been sitting there all year, neglected and lonely. And it wasn't that I was planning on reading Christmas stories this holiday season...but I felt I needed to.
It is easy to get caught up in the bustle around the holidays-obligations, gifts, seeing family, traveling, baking, putting up decorations, etc. So, I sat down with my book of Dickens Christmas stories, had my tree lighting up the page, and read. And while I could talk about the other stories in this volume, it is the title volume that deserves the most attention. Yes, A Christmas Carol deserves all the praise.
I haven't read the story in a really long time. Instead, I have contented myself with watching the various film adaptations over the years. Last year, in fact, I watched "A Mickey's Christmas Carol" with my sister-it took us back to our childhood.
I was surprised by how moved I became by the story. The story is one we are all familiar with-learning that we need to maintain holiday spirit throughout the year, spreading joy, love, and happiness to everyone around us. But the story is so much more powerful on paper than it is in film. Because not only does the reader get this message about holiday spirit, the reader also learns a bit about what it means to be human.
“I wear the chain I forged in life....I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”
I was moved by Jacob Marley's account of his punishment and how it was too late to change the course of his life. And what I think fails to come across in the film versions of this story is the power of that knowledge.
I mean, we all go through like making choices about what is most important to us, what we find value in, and sometimes, with selfishness. We want and need things, pushing aside relationships and feelings with others. And I think, what Dickens was trying to say here, in addition to all the holiday cheer, is that we need to acknowledge the way we live on a daily basis.
Because yes, it is easy to be charitable and loving and helpful around the holidays. It is when we dredge on into winter, into summer, that we forget the spirit and magic of the holidays, and we start to forget that people need our help year round.
That's what I loved on this read of A Christmas Carol-that depth that you can pull from Scrooge's character as he sees those he has let down and the true consequences of his actions. It was inspiring, moving, and just what I needed this holiday season.
While you can certainly get the message by watching one of the films, nothing can beat the power and magic of Dickens' words. Reading as Scrooge transformed from a selfish and miserly sort into a man who found joy in helping those around him, and taking pleasure in spending time with them...well, it is what the holidays are all about. Dickens brought his character to life, and the transformation Scrooge undergoes in print is moving.
I think that in the future this will be a holiday favorite. I can't wait to sit around the tree and read it to my children-teaching them that we should keep the holiday spirit the whole year, not just in the month of December.
“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”