Tuesday, 22 December 2009

A Yule Blog

Go to: Audio Journal / twitter.com/mjasmith

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - image (c) Penguin Classics
Copyright: Penguin Classics

It has become customary to brand those who either cannot or will not enter into the spirit of Christmas as a Scrooge, after Charles Dickens’s most celebrated ne’er do well. Christmas, according to Dickens, is all about upholding tradition, and one of the rituals that I have undertaken the past four years, and which I intend to continue for the rest of my days, is reading A Christmas Carol every December. This year, for the first time I began to see the good in Ebenezer – not in the changed character that we are presented with at the end of the book, the man suddenly able to embrace the festive season and all the values good-natured people have, but the mean-spirited, cantankerous fellow we are first presented with.

Ebenezer Scrooge is indeed one of the most misanthropic characters ever created, but he does have some good qualities which wouldn’t go amiss in most people today.

For starters, he may be extreme in his distaste for charity and goodwill to all men, but he also sees through the false way that people go about their business at Christmas. He simply cannot abide the way people see fit to descend upon those they have taken no interest in at any other point in the year, bestowing pleasantries and forgiveness that will be quickly forgotten once the festivities are over and done with. Fair weather friends have no place in Ebenezer’s world.

Secondly, Scrooge’s tightfistedness and frugality are values which would do well to find their way into many households this Christmas. The gods of capitalism and Government-sponsored borrowing excess seem to have replaced the son of the deity Christmas is meant to celebrate. The sums of money households have expended for one day are often frightening, and one can only hope that these straitened times give rise to a restoration of traditional values at Christmas going forward.

Indeed, if we surmise that Scrooge’s name ‘being good upon ‘Change for anything’ and his residing in the City of London connects Ebenezer to the financial heartland of the United Kingdom, we should celebrate Scrooge’s miserly ways and extreme prudence in his professional ethics at the very least. For those of us presently employed in financial services, facing either an unhappy unemployed Christmas or an uncertain 2009, a bit more of those traditional principles wouldn’t have gone amiss these past few years. Gordon Gecko’s mantra of ‘greed is good’ isn’t that dissimilar to Scrooge’s belief in absolute parsimony. Except, where Gecko would flashily spend his millions on art and other signs of wealth, Scrooge is happy to live the most austere of existences, using barely any fuel to heat his modest home and eschewing elaborate food in favour of simple gruel. Although I can’t abide his wanton grouchiness, I can’t help but feel that Scrooge would have the right strategy for dealing with today’s downturn. Certainly the impact of rising fuel and food prices over the past eighteen months would have barely bothered our Scrooge.


I only recently remembered the letters we used to write to Father Christmas each year and the letters my sister and I would get back, written in a hand curiously similar to my father’s. I remember the tinsel on the family tree, the silver and purple baubles that looked like disco balls, the advent calendar depicting a sweetshop administered by cute elves that would be retrieved each and every year; the brass candle holder where the heat from the candles pushed an angel blowing a trumpet around in perpetuity, each circuit accompanied by a chiming sound from the bells positioned underneath her; I recall the family meals with my maternal grandmother, now several years gone, and the way she’d always greet the arrival of the food with ‘I’m never going to eat all this,’ but would nevertheless manage it anyway, and the way my father and I would drive her home in the evening with two carrier bags on the floor of the back car seats, one containing a pair of slippers and the other containing the carcass of the turkey wrapped in foil for whatever macabre purpose she required it for; I remember the excitement of opening a box of liquorice Allsorts, the increasing complexity of my list throughout my teenage years and the increasing sense of confoundedness that my selections were greeted with by my mother.

I recall the intense joy of looking over the presents I’d received in their little pile in my parents’ lounge and the way I’d want to keep them so piled for as many days as possible to stave off the inevitable putting away and the rapid onset of a new school year that followed; I recall my sister and I sitting impatiently on the top step for my mother to come back up to offer confirmation that Father Christmas had indeed been, and the increasing frustration at how long my father was taking in the bathroom since, without him, we weren’t allowed to head downstairs to tear into our presents; I recall the disappointment at having grapefruit and mandarin as a starter before roast turkey and the joy at the times we had prawn cocktail instead; I even have a pleasant feeling recalling the pain in my nose from trying to clip on those nasty little plastic moustaches you’d find in your cracker; I recall, back when I ate meat, loving the salty taste of turkey sandwiches that would be prepared in the early evening of Christmas Day and the feeling of intense gluttony that I went to bed with; later I recall sadder times, absent family members and the onset of illnesses, adult arguments and relationship breakdowns. The clarity of these memories in totality is greater than many other recollections from years gone by.

Christmas evokes in you so many memories of yesteryear. Few other times bring forth the recollections of your earlier years so readily. I only hope that our children sit here in thirty-odd years with the same vividness of memorable festivities, with so many pleasant recollections of Christmases past and the anticipation of Christmases yet to come.

An extended version of this piece originally appeared on The First Days Of My Thirties blog in 2008. A Happy Christmas to all My Other Blog subscribers.

Follow me on Twitter.

No comments:

Post a Comment