Christmas Countdown Day 7
A Christmas Carol
One of my pre-Christmas treats is to read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I am sure that everyone reading this blog knows the story well, but just in case you don't, here is a brief summary;
Ebenezer Scrooge is a mean old gentleman who makes no bones about his hatred of Christmas. He begrudgingly gives his poor (literally and figuratively!) clerk Bob Cratchit a day off for Christmas, but that is about as good as he gets. Until...
An old business partner of Scrooge's pays him a visit on the night of Christmas Eve. Said business partner, Jacob Marley, has been dead for several years, so to say that Scrooge is a little upset by this is an understatement! Marley tells Scrooge of his terrible fate after death, and he may only redeem himself of his miserly ways by being haunted again by three other spirits that night.
The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present (my favourite spirit!) and Future (the scary one!) lead Scrooge on his life's journey. I won't spoil the ending, as most of you will know it quite well enough anyway!
But it does all end on a happy note!
Dickens first published A Christmas Carol in December 1843 (the same year as the first commercial Christmas card was published!) Many people credit Dickens with creating much of the tradition we associate with Christmas. In truth he captured the spirit of the age, many Victorians had more money to spend, more free time and a willingness to celebrate at Christmas. Dickens had already written about Christmas in The Pickwick Papers, published in 1837, and published further Christmas stories between 1844 and 1848, The Chimes, The Cricket in the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man and the Ghosts Bargain. These books were not so well received by critics, and not such a great commercial success. The Chimes is a book set at New Year, another story of redemption, which I have read for the first time ever this year.
Though Dickens was part of a general restoration of interest in the Christmas holiday, the popularity of many traditions we now include at Christmas may be attributed to his book A Christmas Carol; Turkeys for example, Scrooge chooses a turkey to give Bob Cratchit and his family not only because of its huge size, but also because of its luxury. Tradition had seen beef or goose eaten at Christmas, turkey was an unusual choice at the time, now we seem to eat almost nothing else! Charity, and a feeling for others less fortunate has strong associations at Christmas, and there was a marked increase in charitable donations in the years after the book was first published. The traditional ghost story at Christmas may also have something to do with the Spirits who visited Scrooge. Interest in Spiritualism was growing during the early Victorian era and Dickens tapped into this.
The very image of a Victorian or Dickensian Christmas, with crinolined ladies in muffs and snow covered bow windows owes more to illustrators and movie makers than Dickens himself, but it's still all part of the Christmas tradition set up around A Christmas Carol. Perhaps the best attribute of the book was its gift to the English language; A Scrooge, a miserly old sinner, and of course Bah! Humbug! on the lips of all Scrooges the world over!
One other treat I always allow myself (there are so many I know!) is to watch A Muppets Christmas Carol I challenge anyone to watch this without having the odd tear in their eye at some point in the film!! ;o)