03 December 2011

Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol"

The 1996 Illustrated Edition.
Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The last ghost story we have to read for my horror genre class, The Haunted. Just in time for the holiday season, now that it's December...

And I really did not want to read this book. Call me a humbug, but every year I celebrate Christmas (which used to be my favorite holiday), the harder it gets for me to celebrate it.

And since every year we are inundated with different versions of Dickens' classic, and I've had to read it for school a few times in the past, I just didn't want to bother with the story again.

It's only December 2nd and I am Christmased out. Christmas commercials started October 31st this year (hello, Kmart layaway, I'm talking to you) and every year it seems to come sooner. Every year my ears bleed from all the radio stations that play nothing but horrible Christmas songs for 24 hours a day (do we really need to hear a song about "Hee-haw! A magic Christmas donkey!" ?) And I normally wait to put up the Christmas tree (I refuse to put it up before December 1st) but because we had family visit for Thanksgiving (and we won't see them for a while again) I thought it would be a good idea to put the tree up early so they could see it. Now I kind of want to punch the tree, even though it's pretty. I regret putting it up so soon.

Pretty tree? Punch in the face!
Charlie Brown got it right all those years ago (in 1965!) about how horribly commercialized Christmas has become...(funny enough, Wikipedia says Coca-Cola sponsored the animated special, so I guess not even the Peanuts gang is immune to corporate commercial crap)...and things are sooooo much crazier today with all of that stuff.  It's a sad cycle--stores push us to shop for presents to "stimulate the economy" but not too many people can really afford to shop for presents; and since people aren't buying like they used to, stores are pushing harder for people to buy with crazy sales and hype and discounting and layaway and blah dee dee blah dee blah.

So, yeah. Long ramble about Christmas being difficult to deal with. And that is too sad, because it really did used to be my favorite holiday. I got warm fuzzies back in the day, and all into the spirit of giving, (and I even celebrated it for its original religious purpose) but over the past few years it really has been getting tougher each year. Yeah, a lot of it is related to finances (and I definitely cannot afford presents this year, so it's a homemade gift/Vista print free sample Christmas), but I think it's also harder for people who suffer from mental illness...just a lot of stress and pressure. I should know. I tend to dip into an irritable/depressive cycle around this time of year, despite all the things for which I should be happy and grateful.

Maybe in a weird way, then, I needed to reread A Christmas Carol just to kind of go back to some of the original points Dickens was trying to make when he wrote the novel.  Basically, instead of it being "Tis the Season" for charitable giving and selflessness, we really should be like this every single day of the year, in our hearts and in our minds. If you haven't lived or thought this way before, Christmas just happens to be a great time to start--it is the ultimate enabling holiday for the virtues of charity and love for your fellow man.

If we want to get back to basics with the holiday--as in, back to its original purpose for existing--this is the day chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and in that way, it can be viewed by those who believe that Jesus is God's gift to mankind, and is therefore the ultimate act of charity, sacrifice (considering Jesus dies on the cross for our sins later in order to save humankind), and love. So....we are supposed to emulate these things: charity, sacrifice, and love; we do it at Christmas time to honor Jesus (if you believe in it); and if you aren't Christian, that's okay too, because charity and sacrifice and love is contagious (another reason why Christmas is considered a national holiday of American Civil religion, where everyone can celebrate) and one of the best things about being alive and being human (also a cause to celebrate).

Of course.....the best thing for all of us is to be loving, charitable, and selfless every day of our lives. As Dickens' tale suggests, we are to live our lives for others in this world and will most certainly be judged in the next (if you believe in it) for how we've lived. As Marley's ghost says to Scrooge, "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business" (Dickens 61); and this is to be our business, too.

Sometimes it's difficult to do the right thing all the time. We are human, after all. But it never hurts to start over after we fail, and, given the nature of the Christmas holiday season, this is the time of year where we can pick ourselves up and try again once more. We can't allow ourselves to be haunted by our failures...like Ebenezer Scrooge, we are lucky: as long as we are alive, we still have time to live for others.

Source:
Dickens, Charles, and Gustave Doré. Charles Dickens' a Christmas Carol: with 45 Lost Gustav Doré Engravings (1861) and 130 Other Victorian Illustrations ; Introduction by Dan Malan. St. Louis: MCE Pub., 1996. Print.

2 comments:

  1. Great post. Your first few paragraphs are exactly why I've grown to dislike Christmas--it's not about the spirit of charity and love; it's about how many gifts you can put on layaway before Dec. 25th. And why is it so difficult for people to be kind to each other the other 364 days of the year? (Thinking of the clients at work who are consistently rude...)

    "Now I kind of want to punch the tree, even though it's pretty." I laughed out loud. :D Also, I love that you mentioned "A Charlie Brown Christmas"--that's the tree my boyfriend and I use. Even though we had to buy it at FYE, and even though Pepsi sponsored the show, it's a perfect representation of all that is currently wrong with the holiday.

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  2. As soon as I finished the last sentance of this blog a image appeared in my head of a boy holding a crutch in the hair shouting "God bless us, every one!"

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