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A Winter Carol

Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol is a force among holiday tales. Thirty-seven live theater versions have been produced and premiered in just the last 20 years. Over 30 theatrical movie releases and more than 20 live action television versions have debuted since the end of World War II. There have been countless radio adaptations and several dramatic readings, all contributing to Dickens’ classic Christmas tale becoming the best-known story of Christmas outside of the biblical telling itself of the birth of Christ. The finished manuscript was a mere 66 pages, barely 30,000 words (compared to his Great Expectations at over 184,000 words). The book was first published in December 1843 and has never been out of print. Yet if asked to provide a synopsis, most people couldn’t say much more than this cover blurb on a recent printing.


A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. After their visits, Scrooge is transformed into a kinder, gentler man. It explores themes about the treatment of the poor and the ability of people to reform themselves. [Back cover material, The Illustrated Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, SeaWolf Press, March 5, 2020.]


Those who know the story know there is more to the story. But isn’t that Christmas? Or any of the winter religious and secular holidays. They all defy definition. They espouse charity, goodwill, peace, harmony, birth, and salvation. Pick any holiday and you can ascribe at least one the characteristics associated with the Christian tradition of Advent, the time of waiting for Christmas, of hope, joy, peace, and love. There are hundreds of millions of people celebrating something this month and many of them may not be able to explain what they are celebrating. But they can explain why they celebrate.


Christmas, Hanukkah, Soyal, and Los Posadas being celebrated now, Diwali just passed, and Kwanzaa coming up incorporate lights and candles to represent life, safety, salvation, and fellowship. Add the many other religious and temporal festivals, and the comparisons continue. The aspects of prayer or meditation, of giving, of renewing promises and dedications, and of familial and cultural honor run deep through them all. Every person who celebrates any of these may not be able to put into words the vitality and vibrancy they experience from the festivities, but they know it is a special time shared with special people honoring special events.


This is a time of hope and of the realization of that hope. It is a time when people trade in their business suits and briefcases for matching sweaters and mugs of hot chocolate. It is a time when family meals endured during the rest of the year are anticipated and enjoyed. This is when services sparsely attended most other days are vibrant and filled with large congregations. This is the time when even the admittedly miserable find within themselves kinder, gentler versions of who they are and can even explore the possibility of reforming themselves from Scrooge-life scoundrels to trusting innocent Tiny Tims. It is a time for peace and joy, hope and love.


Just because you may not be able to explain all the intricacies of what you celebrate shouldn’t keep you from celebrating. Just knowing it is a special time to remember something special that happened and shared with special people could be just enough.


Happy Holidays, everybody. God bless us, every one!




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