It was the best of times, it was the worst of times — in the holiday season.
First the worst: I don’t enjoy going to the mall and not being able to get my favorite parking spot, or worrying if I bought the right size pantsuit for my aunt, or receiving that oversize turtleneck sweater from that cousin, and than feigning how much I love it.
Now the best: I do like the feeling that everyone seems a bit more charitable toward mankind during the holidays. As someone who prides himself on being an “Inspirational Speaker”, I try to be aware of what inspires me, thinking it might also do that for others! But my favorite part of the season is the holiday movies with their messages of goodwill.
One of my favorites is “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” which shows us how underdogs can, in other contexts, be heroes. Another is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” illustrating how every person makes a ripple effect throughout the world. I also enjoy “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” especially when his heart grows 10 times its normal size, when he discovers that Christmas is about the spirit and not about the sweaters.
My favorite is Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” While Dickens’ masterpiece 1843 tale has been redone multiple times, my favorite is Alastair Sim’s portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge in 1951. Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies says it was not a hit when it came out because it was too dark. Repeated exposure on television made it the classic version.
This movie has always been the brightest to me, however.
As most will recall, Scrooge is visited by 3 ghosts: Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come. With this experience, Ebenezer is given the greatest gift a person can receive. He is not only allowed to see his past foibles, but also what will come of his life (and of those around him) if he does not change.
With each ghost visit, we see that Ebenezer is possessed by grief that feels inescapable. With each passing year, and hardening experience, he becomes colder and of lessor spirit. We discover that Scrooge had a beloved little sister named Fan, who died after giving birth to Ebenezer’s nephew, Fred. We also discover that the young Ebenezer was once engaged to a wonderful woman, Belle. He loses Belle when she declares that his love for her has been replaced with that of a golden idol — money.
One of the most powerful scenes is when Ebenezer sees his own gravestone. (How would you feel if you had that same opportunity?) He then asks the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come if these are images of what will be, or can they be changed? Can the deeds of man rectify the past?
My favorite part of the movie, however, (and I believe most who view it agree), is the metamorphosis of Scrooge into a person who only sees joy in the world.
The most touching part of the ending is Ebenezer’s visit to his nephew, Fred, on Christmas. In the past, full of resentment for Fan’s death, Ebenezer ignored Fred’s invitations and berated him for marrying a penniless bride. The scene unfolds as Ebenezer enters the parlor with everyone singing joyfully. The action stops with all eyes upon Scrooge as he approaches his nephew’s bride and then says these meaningful words: “Can you forgive a pig-headed old fool for having no eyes to see with, no ears to hear with, all these years?”
I always cry at that scene.
The great master of the word, Dickens gives us a wonderful Christmas gift with his story, telling us it is never too late to change, no matter how far we have fallen. The first vita; step is to reexamine your life. For Scrooge, that was the Christmas ghosts’ purpose.
Dickens wrote in the time when the Industrial Revolution had burst upon the world’s consciousness. The modern world had turned to the golden idol with too many hours spent capturing material goods.
Lives had been ruined in that sole pursuit.
But have times really changed in 170 years since the tale’s original publication?
When it was reported that Charles Dickens had passed, a little girl said to her parents, “Father Christmas has died.” His “Christmas Carol” was so beloved that everyone believed Dickens had written the truest tale of the holiday spirit. While he is no longer, his message still lives on — in Christmas Present.