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    Rerun: Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

    December 7, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    I’ve decided to run this post every year, for we read A Christmas Carol every year. It’s tradition! This post first appeared in December of 2009. You can read the original here. I remembered this post when I was reading A Christmas Carol aloud to my children yesterday…


    The children and I {E., Neighbor M., A. and Q.} finished up reading Dickens’ Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol, again this year. It is always remarkable to me that children love this story. Because I perceive it as a ghost story, I expected the children to be fearful, but instead they accept it as a unique way that Scrooge “learned his lesson” and they rejoice to find Scrooge a changed man in the morning.

    I know there are many portrayals of this work. I remember seeing a lively melodramatic stage version when I was a child. There are also cartoon versions and movie versions and so on and so forth. But reading the actual work is a thing apart. There are so many little lessons ready to change the reader’s heart, if the reader allows. I think, for instance, of this conversation early in the story:

    “Nephew!” returned the uncle, sternly, “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.”

    “Keep it!” repeated Scrooge’s nephew. “But you don’t keep it.”

    “Let me leave it alone, then,” said Scrooge. “Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!”

    “There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew. “Christmas among the rest.”

    Scrooge’s nephew knows a secret our modern world does not: there is a type of profit which is not financial.

    This is built upon when the first ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Past, reveals the delightful Christmas celebrations of the Fezziwig family (Scrooge having been apprenticed to Mr. Fezziwig in his youth):

    “A small matter,” said the Ghost, “to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.”

    “Small!” echoed Scrooge.

    The Spirit signed to him to listen to the two apprentices, who were pouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig: and when he had done so, said:

    “Why! Is it not? He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?”

    “It isn’t that,” said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self. “It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up: what then? The happiness he gives is quites as great as if it cost a fortune.”

    Do you see? The theme is continued: there are intangible delights in this world which cannot be quantified. And yet there is more here. One could think for a week on this passage. Why, herein lies the power of the mother, of the husband, of the corporate boss, of the business owner. Those in authority have the power, lying in a million small details, to render happiness to those beneath them.

    That is a powerful thought. Surely our service to Christ demands consideration of this fact.

    We again see the profit of the intangible, when the Ghost of Christmas present reveals to us the nature of the celebration of Christmas in the home of the impoverished Cratchit family:

    There was nothing of high mark in this. They were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being water-proof; their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have known, and very likely did, the inside of a pawnbroker’s. But they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time…

    Underlying all of this is the ironic state of the soul of Scrooge. There is a constant acknowledgment that brute logic would have us believe that riches make a happy Christmas. Scrooge should be the happiest of all, and yet he is the one whose heart is completely untouched by Christmas.

    Of course, Dickens is here only affirming the words of Christ:

    Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.

    Matthew 19:23

    Keeping Christmas, as Dickens said so long ago, is nothing less than the joy of a rich soul (not a rich pocketbook) overflowing.

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  • Reply ...they call me mommy... December 8, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    What a great idea to read this story every year!!!! 🙂 Hmm….*looks at stack of 12 books that just came in from library!* 😉

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts December 8, 2011 at 1:47 am

    Dawn, I would LOVE to have a copy of that edition someday! I’m so happy to hear you are enjoying it!

  • Reply dawn December 8, 2011 at 1:28 am

    We started an unabridged adult version last year and the children *hated* it. Were not even a little bit interested.

    I bought the one illustrated by PJ Lynch (Jeanne talks about it here and it is beautiful) this year and the children are really loving it. We’re half-way through the first ghost. I probably wouldn’t have tried without your encouragement, Brandy. Thank you.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts December 7, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    I’m sorry to disrupt your inner peace. 🙂

    I think there are two ways of looking at this issue, and I really don’t know which is “best.”

    (1) Delay until you think the time is right. If they decide they hate it, they may think they hate it for many years to come.

    (2) Act on the idea that exposure breeds taste and read it anyhow, but don’t make a big deal out of it if they don’t like it.

    As far as the latter goes, I believe I initially wrote this in 2009, which was the *second* year we had read it. I don’t remember the first year getting much of a reaction. It wasn’t that they (well, my oldest two because Q. would have been a baby and likely napping) didn’t like it, but I do think they thought it was kind of boring. It was the next year that it hooked them, and I really think that because it hooked the two oldest, Q, and Neighbor M. simply followed suit–a type of positive peer pressure, I guess.

    If you were to choose to expose in order to encourage taste, I’d suggest letting them do something else while you read–like maybe building with blocks or coloring or what have you. It sort of depends on the child what kind of activity would work best.

  • Reply Kansas Mom December 7, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    I was thinking about A Christmas Carol last night and wondering again if we should read it. My children are not as eager as yours to just listen. I am a little afraid they would decide to hate the story just because they didn’t feel like listening to it. I’m leaning towards waiting another year…but now I read this post and I’m all conflicted again!

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