One of my bookgroups decided they wanted to read something Christmassy for December, and frankly if you are going to read a Christmas book you may as well read the definitive Christmas book….A Christmas Carol.
If you don’t know the story of A Christmas Carol I can only assume you have been living under a rock your entire life. There are few other works of literature which have so pervaded general culture as Dickens Christmas classic. Even if you have never read the book, it is almost impossible to have not seen one the numerous stage, film or TV adaptions which appear every Christmas. It’s estimated there are over 200 film versions alone.
Christmas as we know it, largely appeared in the 19th century. Obviously we have been celebrating Christmas for approximatly 2000 years, and many of our traditions date back 100s of years in one form or another. However it was in the 19th century the various traditions and now iconic images forged to become the Christmas we know. No one encapsulated this concept of Christmas quite so well in literature as Dickens in A Christmas Carol. He gives us “peace on earth, good will go all men”, bountiful feasts, family gatherings, and the concept of a white Christmas. A rather extraordinary idea considering England is not reknowned for snow in Winter and rarely at Christmas.
Many modern Christmas stories and films are what I class as “happy clappy”, light entertainment for all the family. Christmas is a winter festival held at the darkest time of the year, 4 days after the winter solstice (21st Dec, the longest night of the year). Like most winter festivals a central concept of Christmas, and traditional Christmas stories, is the move from darkness to light as the year turns and the days begin to get longer again. A Christmas Carol is meant for the entire family but it is full of light and dark. There are moments of light comic relief but also darkness. The entire story turns on the Scrooges move from the darkness of his isolated miserly ways, to the light when he learns to show compassion for his fellow man.
It is easy to become caught up in the consumerism that surrounds Christmas. A Christmas Carol reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas….caring for our fellow man. There is no doubt that was Dickens intention. And so in the words of Tiny Tim:
“God Bless Us, Every One”