Monday, December 19, 2011

Here We Come A-Caroling...

If you are going to read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, you read it in December. No other time of year really makes sense. And, of course, you should read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens at some point in your life. It's so pervasive in popular culture and so exceedingly referenced that it only makes sense to visit the original work at some point. At least that way you'll have some frame of reference as an anchor for your opinion of the numerous adaptations (I'm talking muppets to stage performances to Bill Murray's Scrooged) you are bound to see in your lifetime. The good news: the original is worth all of that hype.

I have to admit that the novel held very few surprises for me. Because of all of the adapted versions I've seen in my short 24 years, I knew what to expect. Scrooge is a money hoarding jerk, 4 ghosts mess with him one long Christmas Eve night, redemption is attainable, blah, blah, blah. Yep, that was all in there. What makes it worthwhile is the opportunity to lose yourself in Dickens' language. The images are enough to make you fall in love with Christmas all over again...the food, the carols, the spirits (alcohol, ghosts, and cheer alike). You may have your own image of each ghost in the story, but are you familiar with Dickens' descriptions of them?

Even the well known characters were fresh for me under Dickens' diction. I actually found myself enjoying Scrooge's sense of humor. That's right, this guy:

His reactions to each ghost and the lessons that he learned are taken in good humor and he really is rather quick to recognize the change he will need to make in his life. The very word "Scrooge" has come to symoblize a miserly manner and Christmas hating countenance but it's clear in the character those actions and attitudes are a mere facade. Scrooge is hiding a pain that many people can relate to. Pain over the past and the patterns that have become his life in the present. He is quick to change because a love of mankind and of Christmas are already inherent in him, just buried by things that we all get bogged down in (focus on money much? I know I do).

So, here's the nitty gritty of it...the book is only about 100 pages, Dickens is a genious, and the theme of redemption is never a tired one. Read it! If not this holiday season, make it a goal for next year. Heck, read it every year! Read it to your children, volunteer to read it aloud in a nursing home, listen to an audio version in your car as you holiday shop. Then rent your favorite movie version or see a local stage production and see how your view of the story has changed. Let this classic teach you to "honor Christmas in your heart, and try to keep it all the year."

"It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that, while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor." ~Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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