50 Book Challenge

Book #18: A Christmas Carol

Title: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
# of Pages: 110

This novella has been on my to-read list forever, and, when I found out how short it actually was, I was sheepish that it had taken me 25 years to finally get around to it. I mean, this is probably the most quoted Christmas text next to the Bible, and I, as an English major, should have checked it off my list many, many years ago.

But the past cannot be changed.

Although, as we learn from this tale, the past can indeed come back to haunt us…and change us. Besides the obvious appeal of the plotline (three ghosts coming to haunt a miserly businessman on Christmas Eve), I found myself immersed in the book for other reasons, too–mainly, I found myself dissecting it for the inherent spiritual meaning that I was sure it held. And I was not disappointed.

Maybe it’s just the fact that I’ve been taught how to over-analyze everything thanks to the Lit Theory class I took back in 2006, but I found deep, very personal meaning embedded in each small chapter of this book. You see, I myself have been a bit of a “Scrooge” about Christmas for the past decade or so. and, since I felt that this year I was finally starting to get over that, this book especially hit home for me.

Although I won’t bore you with all the details of my personal revelations while reading this, I will say this: there is a reason that Scrooge needed the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future in order to experience the metamorphosis from misery to mercy. His past reminded him not only of why he perhaps had become the way he was, but also gave him snapshots that life had not always been so bleak for him. Likewise, we can bunker down in the past and continue to think to ourselves, “Poor me,” or we can realize that our past has its ups and downs and its joys and sorrows, which means that our future and present can hold such things as well. I liked how the Ghost did not only show him his past Christmas joys, but that he also showed him his past Christmas sorrows. I liked that fact because it reminds me that “without the bitter, we could not know the sweet.” And it’s important to know that we will always have both, and that’s okay.  It’s so easy sometimes to just think, “This past event is why I am the way I am,” and leave it at that, but we should rather think: “I have had some hard times, but I have also had some joyous times.” It’s all about what we choose to focus our attention on, really.

The Ghost of Christmas Present in the book was not the gluttonous phantom often portrayed in the movies (okay, I’m mostly thinking of just the Mickey Mouse version, since that’s the only one I particularly remember); in fact, in the novel, the Ghost of Christmas Present does not sit idly and enjoy the pleasures of Christmas by himself or merely show Scrooge the current situation of his acquaintances–on the contrary, this ghost adds to the merriment and cheer of everyone he comes in contact with, and shows Scrooge that even the poorest of the poor can have cheer on Christmas day. The message I got from this was that to enjoy Christmas, we should share in the cheer of others–not just look at others’ situations and be jealous (because they have it “better” than us), or depressed (because they have it “worse” than us).

Finally, the Ghost of Christmases to Come reminds Scrooge that our current decisions affect our future outcomes. Although Scrooge’s future in these particular scenes is bleak and lonely, Scrooge himself hits on the truth of the matter when he realizes that his future doesn’t have to be that way–that he, in fact, does (to a great degree) affect how his own future will go. And so do we all.

So although I’m still not the type to put up Christmas decorations in October or claim Christmas as my favorite holiday, I know I’ve made some big changes this year: I recognized the joy and sorrow in Christmases past, I shared in the excitement and love of Christmas present, and I know that I can control my attitude towards Christmases in the future. Isn’t that a great thing?

And to think I could gain all of this from such a short little book.

Marvelous, isn’t it?

My Rating: 5 Stars

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