It’s no surprise that The Christmas Carol is Charles Dickens’ most beloved work, far more popular than A Tale of Two Cities or Great Expectations. And not simply because of its holiday theme. In fact, Dickens wrote and published four other Christmas tales, but only The Christmas Carol is still remembered and treasured. Today, one hundred seventy-six years after the iconic story first hit bookstores in London, if you call someone a “Scrooge,” they know it’s hardly a compliment. Even Ebenezer’s favorite expression, “humbug,” has lodged its way into the Christmas lexicon. This novella—before we ever had a name for such a book—has left an indelible impression on Western culture.
But I believe the appeal of this little book goes far beyond its clever language—“Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that”—and its parade of memorable spectral characters.
Dickens, through his miserly character of Ebenezer Scrooge— disenchanted, lonely, work-obsessed—has hit on a dilemma we all struggle with. For most of us mere mortals, Christmas does not often live up to our expectations, the holiday seldom as shining and bright as promised. And there’s always more work to be done.
More to the point, though, who isn’t haunted by their own version of Dicken’s ghosts?
Who doesn’t have at least one personal horror story about the holidays? The truth is most of us are haunted—if you’ll excuse the pun—by one or more of our own ghosts of Christmas past, wearing us down like the chains the ghost of Marley dragged around in Dicken’s narrative.
So what’s to be done? Another holiday approaches with Godspeed and we must face it.
“I wish…but it’s too late now.”
These words whispered by Ebenezer echo our own desperation. But, through his inventive story, Dickens proves that it is never too late—though it took four ghosts and a near death experience to convince old Scrooge.
This Christmas, let’s not be so stubborn. As the sudden death of a close friend taught me recently, tomorrow is promised to no one. Though we may not be able to forget, we always have permission to forgive—both others and ourselves.
It’s not too late to make amends.
It’s not too late to say I’m sorry.
It’s never too late to say I love you.
I hope this year your Christmas season is shiny and bright, restful and blessed.
My ghosts? I have my share like everyone else, but most times I enjoy their company. Of course, I prefer to encounter them in the pages of The Christmas Carol or maybe even, my own ghost story/mystery, Blood on the Chesapeake.
Oh, and I almost forgot. Merry Christmas and, in the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, everyone.”