So much happiness (2014 version)

This is the 1938 edition that started it all for us, photographed December 14, 2014.

This is the 1938 edition that started it all for us, photographed December 14, 2014.

“He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk– that anything– could give him so much happiness.”Charles Dickens

Everywhere we have lived, in big cities and small coastal towns, there has been at least one (and sometimes more than one) annual theatrical production of Dickens’ beloved classic A Christmas Carol.  My delight at the widespread and enduring popularity of this story has been surpassed only by my amazement at the near-impossibility of getting good tickets anytime close to Christmas.  This year, I made the mistake of waiting until late November to get tickets to the Ford’s Theater production.  I’ll know better next year.

My siblings and I were raised on this story, learning it alongside the Bible stories we were taught from earliest memory.  We gleefully saw every version of the Scrooge story that was filmed over the years, and enjoyed almost every one; several are among those we watch again and again.  Some of us favor the Alistair Sim version, others the Albert Finney version or the Muppet version or the Magoo version, not to mention the unforgettable Dr. Seuss version (aka the Grinch).  All end with the ebullient joy of a miser who discovers, in the nick of time (no pun intended) that it’s never to late to have a good and happy life.

Among the artifacts I treasure most are my father’s childhood copy of the book (which I believe was given to him by his Aunt Henrietta, whence came most of the books in that family) and a very old reel-to-reel tape of him reading the entire novella aloud, for us to have available if he had to be out flying on Christmas Eve.  I’m thankful to remember only one such occasion when he was absent; Daddy was the heart and soul of Christmas in our home, and his love of A Christmas Carol is one of the finest gifts he gave his children.  All four of us adore the tale, as do our children and presumably, in years to come, their children.

What is it about this story that appeals to generation after generation of readers?  It’s partly due to the venerated skill of the author, whose ability to create characters is unsurpassed.  The ghostly aspects of the story add an exciting shiver of suspense, and the plot moves quickly while encompassing an amazing amount of detail in a relatively few words.

But I think it’s the central theme of the story that strikes a chord within so many of us.  Who among us has not felt alone, misunderstood or unwanted at some time or other?  Which of us does not fear poverty, or hesitate to share whatever possessions we claim?  How many of us are thoughtless about what our friends and fellow workers may be enduring?  Scrooge lives in each of us, for better or worse.

Little wonder, then, that his jubilant reclamation draws us to his story again and again.  For all of us, I wish the sort of Christmas old Scrooge was finally able to have.  May it bring us the multitude of pleasures he discovered; joys that had lain dormant within his reach for far too many years.

My love of this season is no secret to anyone who has ever been within five feet of me at this time of year.  In fact, I once joked that I wanted this quote from the end of Dickens’ story to be read at my funeral: “…it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”

So today I finish with the rest of that quote: “May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

Book Cover Copyright page

52 Comments

  1. Julia what an extraordinary post. You are a gifted storyteller. I too have seen all the versions you’ve mentioned along with local adaptions for the stage but I’ve never read it. Seeing your beloved copy makes me realize that I should. Merry Christmas.

    • Oh, you simply MUST read it! It’s a masterpiece, no doubt about it. I think you will find it an easy read, but there is an annotated version out there somewhere that would probably be even better. When people ask me what my favorite book is, I always mention that title, along with the explanation that I consider it to be in a class by itself and thus not really in the running. Sort of like The Wizard of Oz is among films.

      • Ann

        I’ve never read it either…amazing to realize that. I’m off to the library today. Plus, I’ve never seen the Muppet version. Another thing I plan to correct soon!

        • Ann, if you like the Muppets, you’ll love the Muppet version. If you are unfamiliar with them, this will be a good introduction. But nothing can match the singular voice of Dickens himself. I hope you love the book as much as I (and millions of others, obviously) do.

      • That sounds like the best recommendation out there, Julia. Clearly you are a top notch librarian.

        • Aw, thanks Alys…maybe someday I’ll be able to go back to being employed in that capacity, or perhaps I should try freelancing online? Hee-hee.

  2. Great post! “A Christmas Carol” is one of my favorite stories. Every year it helps me stay on the proper track at this time of year.

    • I agree! Thanks for visiting; I enjoyed seeing your blog. I wish I’d had more time to spend there, but I already think I might want to re-blog your “Mail Call 1942” post sometime, if you don’t mind. So interesting!

      • Please feel free to re-blog the mail call series. They are one of my favorite.

        • Thank you, I hope to re-blog it sometime soon. I’ll try to give you a heads up when I do. If I haven’t re-blogged it in a month or so, you might want to send me a quick reminder here. Thanks!

  3. As just another sibling, I see the words “alongside the Bible stories” and ask:
    Do you believe the special mystique of Dickens’ tale, as representative of Christmas, itself, overshadows the “dull” re-telling of Noah’s ark, and of the death of Goliath? In other words, which of these examples reverberate more down deep in your soul?

    • I’m puzzled by your description of those stories as “dull” because I’ve never heard anyone describe them that way (I haven’t seen the recent Noah movie). Granted, the Bible accounts are so short as to be impossible to compare with a novella, and even the many picture-book versions of the stories are too short to be fairly compared to A Christmas Carol, in a narrative sense. But from a thematic standpoint, I think both stories strike chords in my personality. The rainbow of hope at the end of Noah’s story was mentioned by Maya Angelou in a clip I featured recently, and the story of the Ark is probably one of the most popular children’s stories of all time, with countless commercial products picking up the motif. But the relatively few who know me and my personal history as a mother would probably say that the David and Goliath story is closer to my heart than the other two stories. I think any parent of a child with disabilities has sometimes (and maybe often) felt like David, driven by righteous indignation to strike out against what we know to be wrong, even though it is deeply rooted in seemingly powerful forces, and even though others think our determination hopeless and misguided.

  4. Julia,
    The one movie version you didn’t mention was made in 1938. Scrooge was played by Reginald Owens. (Sp.?) It was a little over an hour long. My brother and I have been viewing it each Christmas Eve or day. The celebration would be somewhat lacking without it.

    Poverty is a sad circumstance, especially for those who must suffer it. Yet it has a redeeming quality. It allows others an opportunity to be charitable.
    -Alan
    p.s. A Blessed and Merry Christmas. Mon. Dec. 22nd I’ll post a Christmas thought. I invite you to visit.

    • Alan, I think we have seen that version a few times, though we don’t own a video tape of it. I suppose that is the very oldest of the versions that are still in circulation?

      Poverty, if temporary, can be a powerful and life-changing school (as it was with Mr. Dickens himself). I think growing up with too many advantages is almost as dangerous and soul-numbing as growing up with too few. Perhaps more, in the long run. But the suffering that goes along with being truly poor, especially when it is a long-term situation, is something most of us in this country cannot imagine. One of the greatest sources of inspiration for me personally is the lifelong observation that many of the people who would seem to have the least to give, actually give more, percentage-wise, than those with much greater resources. It’s fairly easy to give out of abundance. But it’s unforgettable to see those who are relatively poor in material goods, yet are rich in the graces of giving and receiving. Truly humbling.

      I wish you a Christmas filled with blessings!!

      • Just as the old woman who gave her last pennies for taxes. Jesus said her’s was the greater sacrifice, because she gave the last she had.
        A Blessed Christmas to you and your’s as well.
        -Alan

        • Thank you, Alan!

  5. Very nice. My husband read this story out loud to us one Christmas season. The kids were younger, but made it through. 😉 It is definitely a classic!! Thanks for sharing.

    • You’re welcome! I need to re-read it. I find new (or forgotten) gems of expression with each reading of it.

  6. LB

    Lovely post!
    But to make you laugh: my favorite version of A Christmas Carol is the Muppet Christmas Carol. I know, I know … but hear me out. My son and I have been watching this together since he was 8 years old and he still humors me (at 30 yrs) and offers to watch it with me when he comes home for the holidays.

    • LB, all kidding aside, several family members and I feel that the Muppet version is truly a remarkable achievement. The music by Paul Williams is fantastic, and Michael Caine does a very impressive job with the role of Scrooge. “It feels like Christmas” is one of my favorite songs, and I quoted from it and wrote about the Muppet version in this post. The last time my parents were able to come visit us, for Thanksgiving 2004, we all (my sister’s family, our family and Mama and Daddy) sat down together on one of the two nights they were there and watched the Muppet Christmas Carol! So I am delighted to learn of your appreciation of the movie. I’m so glad you and your son still enjoy it together!

      • LB

        Oh that makes me smile! I agree about the music (and listen to the CD when I’m baking). Michael Caine is the perfect Scrooge and the muppet characters bring some lightness to the scarier times.
        Can we watch it together in the spring – haha!!

        • “It is the season of the sprit
          The message, if we hear it,
          Is ‘make it last all year!'” — OF COURSE we can watch it this spring! Hee-hee.

    • I love that version.
      Is that the one where Gonzo jumps into the street to stop a cab and then says “it’s great, when it works! ” ?
      Maybe I’m confusing Muppet movies.

      • Yes, I think it is, although I might be confusing it too. I love all the Muppet movies.

  7. Oh, I have to agree, The Muppet version always entertained me and my children.
    And Julia…”God bless us…every one ! 🙂

    • Thank you Merry!

  8. Good morning, Julia! The bright colors in that illustration are so cheerful and lively – symbolic (it seems) of that reawakening joy that Scrooge felt (or any of us quasi-Scrooges feel) when we re-engage in life and love!
    Hooray for right decisions!
    Hooray for good re prioritizing!
    Hooray for second chances!

    • Hooray for online friendships too! Thanks for being here. Wishing you and yours the best of everything this season!

  9. I think we all live a part of the story through out our lives. How wise Dickens was to capture humankind so accurately. To appeal to the masses and enhance their awareness of the season. It gives us all a chance to take stock of ourselves and if we don’t like what we see we can change it while there is still time. It touches even the hardest heart and soul. To care and make merry and give of ourselves to others.
    Merry Christmas Julia, well done. A perfect post for this joyous season.

    • Thank you Patricia! I have so enjoyed getting to know you this year through your writing, and I appreciate your visits here. I wish you and your family (especially the Italian ones I feel as if I know a little bit 😀 ) a wonderful holiday season and a New Year bright with blessings!

  10. Carlyle

    Julia,
    I really appreciate your “Christmas Carol” post.I am especially gratified that you credit me with creating the pleasure you and your siblings have found in this annual retelling of Dicken’s classic.

    • Thank you Daddy! And thanks for giving me that book to keep. Do you remember the occasion when you gave it to me? I was talking to you and Mama about your will and end-of-life plans and so forth, and I said all I wanted to be sure to get was your copy of A Christmas Carol. You said “take it now, then. At the age we are now, you’d better take whatever you want right now.” You said it with a chuckle, but you meant it, and I took you up on the offer. That was well over ten years ago! You can rest assured that however long your children live, they will not be able to hear about this story without thinking of you.

  11. Sheila

    Julia, what a beautiful post that really takes us to your childhood Christmas’s long ago. 🎄 Then to read Mr. Carlyle’s comment and your reply was just what I needed to make my Christmas spirit soar. You and your precious family are so special to me! Love, Sheila

    • Thank you Sheila! I so treasure your attention to, and appreciation of, my wacky eccentric unique family! ❤ You feel like one of us by now. Maybe someday you can meet at least some of us in person. You might even be able to take being around the whole crew at one time, briefly anyway! My younger brother Al once brought his Venezuelan friend home from college to spend Thanksgiving with us — crowded into the tiny family cabin at the lake, no less. I asked him afterward how he thought it went and he said "You know how it is when you bring a friend home…it's almost as much a trip for you [in the 60's sense of the word] as it is for your visiting friend." 😀 Maybe that will give you an idea why I'm so thankful for your generous spirit toward us. 😀

  12. Amy

    I was determined to get us tickets to the production of this show at Fords as soon as we knew we were coming to this area. I did and we enjoyed it but were a little disappointed. The best one Stephen and I ever saw was at the theatre in Santa Maria. Our entire family loves it. In France we saw one man show where one person played all the parts. That was fun and really struck a chord with Aaron. We love you. Praying all is well.

    • Hey, we’ll have to talk more about this Ford’s Theater production…I want to know why it was disappointing before I blow major money on great tickets! I don’t remember a production in Santa Maria, but I do remember being absolutely blown away by how fun the production at The Great American Melodrama in the little town of Oceano (just north of Santa Maria) — is that the one you are thinking of? It was a whirlwind production, since it was part 3 of an entire evening of entertainment, but I remember we all loved it. The Ghost of Christmas Present was played by a woman which normally would have seemed unorthodox to me, but she totally stole the show. I remember her performance to this day. I would love to have seen the one in France — it sounds great! My all-time personal favorite production of Christmas Carol was the amazing show in Norfolk, which sadly is not what it used to be, though it is still very good. The first time we saw it under the former director, it was nothing less than a spectacular feat of stage-directed choreography; the actors changed the very impressive sets WHILE performing — and the narration was almost word for word taken direction from Dickens. Plus it featured the most amazing Ghost of Christmas Future I have ever seen before or since. Frank DaLima’s Hawaiian Christmas Carol was hilarious, but it was full of inside local jokes that we wouldn’t have understood if we had seen it when we first got there instead of the last year we were there. It’s so cool how all these productions each have their own stamp while remaining essentially true to the story. Love you too! We are doing mostly well. Will be up here much of the season, so maybe we can get together. Let me know your schedule and what days you will be off from work.

    • Can’t say I blame you for being disappointed, Amy. At Ford’s theater, when Marley’s ghost lept down onto the stage, raised a knife over his head, and shouted “sic semper tyrannus” it just seemed to ruin Dickens’ whole story.

      • Some things just never change. 😀

        • Cracked you up, though; didn’t it Sis?

          • It reminded me of our discussion of the movie “Oliver!” when I was young.

            • Oh, yes – so sad – the young man in the titular role, swinging from that rope at the end! The sadness of the scene rivaled seeing Marley limp off backstage (they said he broke his ankle, and whoever would set it – forever after, his name would be Mudd.)

              • Why did I not see this coming?

                • What can I say, in reply? The same thing happened when Don commented that he liked reading about sports figures and inventers – next thing you knew we were discussing the earned run average of Eli Whitney 😉

                  • Just don’t get started on Richard E. Nixon…

  13. Sheila

    Julia, we watched the original movie,” A Christmas Carol” last night and Bill wanted you to know how much we enjoyed it and thought of ya’ll! 🎅🎄 I’m getting more excited by the day. 🎄🎅 Uh-oh, another similarity! I love it….She

    • Sheila, I am so glad!!! Was this the old B&W Alastair Sim version, or the 1938 one that Alan mentioned? All of them are great! So here’s one of my favorite songs for Christmas excitement!! Something tells me you’ll enjoy this as much as I do. 😀

  14. Rene

    A couple of years ago, we watched 5 or 6 versions of “A Christmas Carol” on TV. My husband has always loved the Reginald Owens version, and I think it is the best representation of joy in spite of circumstances (even getting sacked didn’t spoil Bob Cratchit’s Christmas; after all, Martha had a half-holiday!). I was surprised by how much I cried during the Muppet version and am looking forward to seeing it again, as I didn’t remember the music. But, I have to give a shout-out for the Dr. Who Christmas Carol, with Michael Gambon. The moments where the “Scrooge” character recognizes what he has become, but can’t quite bring himself to change yet are stunning, and I always cry when Katherine Jenkins sings at the end.

    • Rene, believe it or not, I have never heard of nor seen the Michael Gambon version. I will have to look it up! Thanks for the reference. Hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday!!

  15. Rene

    It’s an episode of “Dr. Who,” you’ll probably have to look it up that way. Enjoy!

    • Rene, believe it or not, I had never heard of the updated “Dr. Who” – I only remember the old, old James Bond version. Thirty years of no TV has made me a sort of alien on my own planet!!

      • Rene

        Oops, I forgot about you & TV!; watched this on Christmas Eve, cried again, laughed at some funny parts that I hadn’t remembered. Perhaps the DVD will find its way into your hands!

        • Yes, or maybe we can stream it, something we are gradually learning to do. I do like to get recommendations, because there really are some good shows on TV. We have totally enjoyed Downton Abbey (on DVD) and I know there are others we would like. Thanks for the tip!

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