Warning: this post may contain spoilers for Charles Dickens’s classic Christmas piece, A Christmas Carol
I love A Christmas Carol. I’ll read most things with “Charles Dickens” on the cover, but I love A Christmas Carol. It’s a feeling that I inherited from my dad, and I have for several years now been in the habit of re-reading this classic Christmas tale every year around the holidays. This is in addition to frequently attending whatever stage adaptation happens to be around, listening to the Patrick Stewart audiobook version several times (often while running), watching at least one movie adaptation (I like the Muppets version and the Patrick Stewart version the most), and for several years participating in a radio play adaptation for a fundraiser. My family even has a Dickens-themed Christmas village, complete with Scrooge’s counting house, Fezziwig’s warehouse, and a lowering pile of a building up a yard where it had so little business to be that one could scarcely help fancying that it must have run there when it was a young house, playing at hide and seek with other houses, and forgotten the way out again.
However, because I usually write posts ahead of time, and schedule them to publish weeks and months in advance, I haven’t previously posted a book review for a book that I know so well I can recite more than half of it from memory. Besides, I had some thought of starting a tradition, and trying to post a review for a different version or adaptation of the short novel (or long novella) each year, perhaps supplemented by some of Dickens’s other Christmas stories (like The Chimes), but I was never confident in having enough to say to make that work. Instead, I’ve settled for reviewing the book this year, and we’ll see what happens for next year.
I know this particular piece has all kinds of political, social, and cultural implications and significance, and that there are a lot of ways to read deeply into what Dickens was trying to do with the work. For me, that’s putting far too much thought into a Christmas ghost story. I see A Christmas Carol as serving as a reminder to make the holidays a special time. Scrooge wasn’t always a humbug – he just had to be reminded of the joys of the season, and that at some point he can choose whether to be happy or unhappy, a pleasure or a toil (thank you, Fezziwig). I see it as a reminder to all of us that no matter how unpleasant other parts of the year might be, we can still make the holidays special.
Chances are pretty good that you’ve read, watched, seen, heard, or otherwise played witness to some form and presentation of the Christmas Carol story already, but let me recommend that if you haven’t before or haven’t in awhile, you sit down with the original text and read it through. There are all sorts of amusing remarks and cultural references that are usually omitted from adaptations, and the descriptions are beautiful and vivid. You could say that they have a dismal light about them, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar. I’ve never actually seen a lobster, bad or good, emit any kind of light, in a cellar or not, and yet I can imagine exactly what sort of glow Dickens is there describing.
Well, I think I’ve subjected you to enough quotes and lavish praise from and for A Christmas Carol. Since it’s in the common domain, there are even copies available for free, so there’s really no excuse for not reading this classic. Even if you don’t become as obsessed with the story as I am, I really encourage you to read A Christmas Carol this holiday season.