A Christmas Carol

Christmas Eve was always a big deal in my house. My mother and father's generation, that generation who got married in the years following World War II, knew there would be problems among the families come Christmas Day. They wisely decided that we, my father's family (including his four brothers, one sister, and all their broods), would celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve; the other side of the family could then be tended to on Christmas Day without any bad feelings.

Then again, I heard something the other day that celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve might be more of a Polish tradition. Whether that's true or not...well, I guess I could do some Internet research and find out, but I'd rather not at this point in my life; I rather like the idea that my father's family decided independently to set aside Christmas Eve as "that side" of the family's celebration while accommodating their in-laws.

Anyway, I was watching A Christmas Carol last night. This was the 1938 version, with Reginald Owen as Scrooge and Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit. (Gene Lockhart is the judge in Miracle on 34th Street, who finds for the old man, Edmund Gwenn, that he is Kris Kringle.) Most people probably remember the 1951 version with Alistair Sim, as I think that's been shown on TV a lot more often than the 1938 version.

But I was watching the older one last night, and it got me to thinking about the novel, and about Dickens. We wannabes are endlessly told to find a good enough antagonist to block the way of our protagonist; they can be outright villains, or someone who thinks they're doing something good to the protagonist by constantly thwarting whatever the protag is going for. Of course, we're talking about people, mostly; Dickens went further, in that his antagonists for Scrooge were the Christmas spirit and charity. And Scrooge was an anti-hero, to boot; how could we possibly like this old miser?

But Dickens was such a great writer, that he pulled it off. He made the story completely believable, made it so that you really thought Scrooge had changed his ways.

So why did Dickens write this story? This was written when the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, when the London fog of legend was hanging around (it was more of an industrial fog than any sort of natural fog), when people were paid pittances to work at these big factories, when the industrialists grew richer every day.

Lest you think this is a big diatribe against business, just read on...

What Dickens was trying to say to the industrialists was to treat their workers with respect, to treat them as human beings, not as machines. Give them living wages, so they had a decent roof over their heads, so they could buy food and clothing, maybe even have a little left over to buy something fun.

Dickens didn't think that was such a bad thing, and who in their right mind could? This dovetails with my last post on the kindness of others.

And I think it's a perfect sentiment and idea for this time of year, and ANY time of the year.

Have a safe and merry Christmas!! :-)

~Nancy Beck