“I HAVE endeavoured in this Ghostly little book to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it. Their faithful Friend and Servant”– Charles Dickens, December 1843
I have always enjoyed the Holidays. It starts with Halloween then Thanksgiving, which quickly turns into the yuletide season. Each has a distinctiveness that holds a special meaning, but Christmas is the most singular of the three.
Christmas, more than any other Holiday, is celebrated worldwide. As the calendar approaches December 25, anticipation builds and electricity fills the air. People observe various yuletide festivals and traditions. Both the rich and poor share in the celebration of the season.
For Christians (all denominations), Christmas is the observance of the birth of their savior. The season is a solemn period that is marked by worshiping God through song and praise. It is a time to rejoice in God’s benevolence and compassion.
On the other hand, despite being steeped in religious dogma, the secularists view Christmas as an institution worthy of celebration because the principles associated with it (peace, charity, and goodwill) are noble aspects of a society.
In both cases there is a reason for people to revel in the Christmas season. A particular charming part of Christmas is the many traditions people observe. For me, I always look forward to watching A Christmas Carol, the Charles Dickens’ classic tale about a crotchety old miser, Mr. Scrooge, and his reclamation.
What I like most about A Christmas Carol is its ability to bridge opposing interpretations on Christmas. For instance, people of different political or religious views will agree with Jacob Marley’s simple declaration, “the common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business…” (A Christmas Carol, 52) . Marley’s statement doesn’t just set the tone for the narrative; it forges a connection with readers and viewers. In a broader sense Marley completely captures the core of the yuletide season, if not the magic of Christmas.
Marley’s statement isn’t the only time a Dickens’ character expresses an idea that is universally accepted. An earlier conversation between Scrooge and his nephew has a similar effect. “I have always thought of Christmas time…as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time…when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely…” (A Christmas Carol, 23). Like Marley’s declaration, Scrooge’s nephew touches upon a topic that is easily agreed upon by readers and viewers.
Dickens’ genius is his ability to relate A Christmas Carol to virtually everyone. His story simply plays upon societies’ desire to see cold-hearted individuals find their humanity, while it reaffirms each individual’s view of the meaning of Christmas.
Christians associate Scrooge’s redemption as a value that is rooted in their doctrine, while the secularists see his transformation as a realigning of his ethical framework. Each group is equally pleased when Scrooge changes his ways and join the community. People are delighted that their view of the season is (seemingly) endorsed. The brilliance of how Dickens uses his characters to accomplish this feat is remarkable.
A Christmas Carol has withstood the test of time. It has undergone countless reproductions and remakes; yet, the core message always shines through. If you haven’t read the original book, then do so. If you prefer to watch a film, I suggest the 1984 version starring George C. Scott. In my opinion, it’s the best.
Some other nicely done versions are the classic 1935 picture staring Seymour Hicks, and the 1951 film starring Alastair Sim. All three of these titles are offered on YouTube.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.