I love Christmas for one reason: I can wander the streets where I live, with my favourite book tucked under my arm and no one gives me a second glance.
I love ghost stories anytime, but Christmas just seems the perfect time for some trans-dimensional apparition to appear in my larder, or on the stairs. Is it any wonder then, that I was captivated upon my first reading of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”? In the decades that have passed, I have read it every year (sometimes twice). It’s my favourite piece of writing. Period.
When I read it again, just recently, I tried to figure out what it is that has made this one book, among the multitude of Christmas tomes, such an intrinsically essential component of Christmastime.
We all know the story. Miser, Scrooge visited by past, present and future ghoulies that help him change his ways. But is that it?
Poor, overworked Bob Cratchit is all too recognizable for many of us, as we work longer hours in an effort to stave off this ever increasingly expensive world. Many of us would love to have a family, however you define that, coming together around the small table, crammed with laughter and love, even though the pudding be quite small.
Myself, I identify a little too closely with dear old Ebeneezer. At times, I can be slow to warm, and have been known to “carry my own low temperature always about with me; icing my office in the dog-days; and scarcely thawing it one degree at Christmas.”
I’m extremely driven…this book reminds me to stop and look around; that we “really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
As a writer, I am humbled by the eloquence and sheer grace of language used to introduce us to Scrooge’s counting house. And would that I had a time machine at my disposal, I would dial it back to Christmas Eve 1843, and “run to Camden Town, as hard as I could pelt, to play at blindman’s-buff” alongside dear Mr. Cratchit.
But what I find most interesting is the all-inclusive effect this simple tale has on people from diverse backgrounds. I have met with strangers, only able to speak a few words of English, tell me “Humbug!!” With a broad smile and a thumbs-up, upon recognition of the book’s title.
I have a copy of the original manuscript, showing all the corrections and evolutions of the words chosen by its author. It gives me hope, as a writer; the story gives me hope, as a human being.
So, as Christmas edges ever nearer, and in the spirit of good Mr. Dickens, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very joyous season and offer a small prayer that we might all strive to keep Christmas well in our hearts, all year long.