One year, a few days after Thanksgiving, when my sister was starting to read, my dad brought home a copy of A Christmas Carol by Dickens. For the days leading up to Christmas, after dinner and bath time, my family would sit down and read the book aloud. My sister had to read a paragraph, my brother one page, me two pages. I remember feeling like life was ending with the way my younger sister read. That paragraph took forever. And even my two pages felt like they dragged on for an eternity. We all wanted to finish our reading because then, it would be my dad’s turn to read. My dad is an English teacher and drama teacher. He did all the voices. He brought Scrooge and his humbug ways to life in our home.
Ever since then, A Christmas Carol has been a big part of our family’s traditions and history. We read the book for many years. Saw stage productions, movies, and set aside time to celebrate with Scrooge each year.
As a writer, Dickens and his ghostly Christmas story have always had a special place in my heart. 85% of that is tradition and the beautiful prose. But the other 85% is admiration; the fact he published it himself and he wrote the book in six weeks.
I bring all this up because there has always been one part of the book that chokes up my Christmas sensibilities. For me, it’s the perfect thesis on the meaning of Christmas. It’s the conversation between Scrooge and his nephew Fred as they discuss the importance of Christmas.
“Uncle!” pleaded the nephew.
“Nephew!” returned the uncle sternly, “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.”
“Keep it!” repeated Scrooge’s nephew. “But you don’t keep it.”
“Let me leave it alone, then,” said Scrooge. “Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!”
“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew; “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it has come round–apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that–as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open
their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”
So my fellow passengers to the grave, if I had one wish for you this Holiday season, it would be a moment of peace. A moment of reflection. A memory. A sigh. A blink of an eye where you are filled with the light of the season. One deep breath in which you are reminded of the love of Christmas past, present and future.