A Christmas Carol
By Kristin Battestella
One small review of one small book. 87 pages I’ve taken time out of my busy holiday schedule for every year since 2000: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. This year has been the same. People say, “Oh, you’re reading that? Again?!” Sometimes I myself begin reading with a sigh. Such a silly tradition I’ve placed upon myself! Sometimes I rush to finish on Christmas Day, other times I’ve read through in a few cold December days. Regardless of my mood when I start, I’m hooked once I read a sentence. I read faster, wanting to get to my favorite lines and scenes. Even though I know what’s coming on each page, I also know exactly where my lip’s going to tremble, too.
Call me many things, but never predictable. Despite all the excellent film portrayals- Bill Murray’s Scrooged included- one has not truly experienced Scrooge, Marley, Tiny Tim, and the ominous Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come until you have read the book. Alistair Sim, Kelsey Grammar, and Patrick Stewart just won’t do.
Even if you are not a Dickens fan or don’t have the Department 56 Dickens’ Village light up houses like I do, Carol defines everything the holidays are about. After Thanksgiving I begin disassembling our year round Village display. I clean each house-Scrooge and Marley’s Counting House, the Flat of Nephew Fred; every figurine-Fezziwig and the graveyard with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. I put them all up again with fluffy snowscapes and cobblestone roadways. The Flat of Ebenezor Scrooge is meant to look shabby, ugly, unkempt. Yet the house representing the residence of Charles Dickens, Gad’s Hill Place, is three stories of all the bells and whistles.
Despite his future success, Dickens often wrote about life in debtors prison and his 1843 portrayal is spot on in relation to today’s over zealous commercial shopping season and bottom line obsessions. Scrooge is like today’s store managers, keeping the heat down and demanding clerks arrive early the day after. I thought of Scrooge, upset for his ‘ill use’ of paying a day’s wages on an unworked Christmas when I saw 4 a.m. Black Friday sales. Scrooge will never become cliché, no matter how many performances glorify him or send him up. Why? Because at some point, everyone has had a little bit of Ebenezer in them, regretted the fact, and redeemed themselves. You say you will donate here, volunteer there. Sometimes you do, sometimes you genuinely are busy or forget. Other times you simply skip doing good because you just don’t feel like it. The word Scrooge has become part of our vocabulary.
We all know the story of Ebenezor’s ghostly visitors who show him the true meaning of Christmas. In fact, A Christmas Carol was name one of the Top 100 horror stories of all time. Carol’s past memories of happy childhoods gone by from the elderly but childlike Ghost of Christmas Past and the bittersweet memories of those enjoying life around you courtesy of a trip with the robust Ghost of Christmas Present are sappy enough to make even Scrooge warm, but the gothic and frightening images of Ignorance, Want, and silent The Future Yet Undetermined can indeed scare anyone back to goodness. Dickens himself spent time in a Debtor’s Prison, and the reveal of the boy Ignorance and the girl Want hidden under the aging Christmas Present’s robe gets me every time. Skin and bones and claws for hands that could have been prevented by Scrooge’s donations. His own evil words are turned back on him. How often do we quell ourselves into not doing good by saying that someone else will? You need only go to a school for a day and spot the coatless, scrawny, un-brushed hair among the classrooms for inspiration. Amazing all the advancement’s we’ve made since Dickens’ time and some things unfortunately do not change.
This is scary, upsetting stuff in A Christmas Carol, yet I still recommend this story as a family read this holiday season. As deep and mature as Dickens’ Tale is for us older working folks, picture your children gathered around the fire each reading a stave. It might be the best gift you give them this season. Showing them how to recognize the needs of others before they grow up in the commercial Christmas rush. Potter reading children will take the good versus evil story at its basic, core values. Poor Bob Cratchit and ill Tiny Tim had no material things of value to begin with-less than that in the Future’s horrible vision, yet the family is grateful. They have hope, love, belief. Maybe poor Nephew Fred has no heat in his flat, but the packed party and jubilant laughter is enough to keep his company warm. Both these families toast to Scrooge-not because he deserves it, but because it’s the right thing to do. These warm wishes juxtaposed against the notion of the clothes being taken right off Scrooge’s dead body at his end mirror his contrary, inconsiderate nature. Which would you choose? A Christmas Carol reminds us that one is never too old for a lesson in gratitude, redemption, and awareness of the world around you.
Reading A Christmas Carol this holiday will remind you and yours of all the good things about the Season. Why the good things are good, and why they should be treasured and spread. Not exuberant gifts like those Zales and Lexus commercials. A Christmas Carol gives us the things that can’t be bought-or even seen.