In 1984, two significant events occurred …the birth of my youngest child, a daughter named Adriel…and the premier of a made for TV movie, A Christmas Carol, based on the story by the same name by Charles Dickens, and starring George C Scott. Interestingly, those two events, which became intertwined that year, have remained connected since. Holding baby Adriel, I watched this classic for the first time in 1984 with my two preschool children.
Every year, for years afterward, network television would broadcast A Christmas Carol again. And we would watch it. It normally aired around Christmas Eve, and it rapidly became a tradition in our house to watch the movie while munching on snacks and drinking hot chocolate. As Adriel grew, she quit falling asleep during the movie and began to watch it with us. As a young child, the ghostly visits of Jacob Marley and the three Christmas Spirits frightened her a little. Not enough to make her cry or protest, but just enough to cause her to excuse herself to go to the bathroom or the kitchen during the scariest parts.
As she grew older, the fear dissipated, and we all enjoyed the movie together. Then Elissa moved away from home, followed by Nathanael a few years later, and it was just Adriel and me continuing our tradition. By now I had purchased the movie on DVD so we could pick exactly when to watch “our” movie. We still selected Christmas Eve most of the time. When Adriel moved out, I gave her A Christmas Carol as a present, her first Christmas away from home. And we continued to meet, sometimes at her home, sometimes at mine, to watch the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge, so brilliantly portrayed by George C Scott. Sometimes other family members would join us. Most often, it was just the two of us.
Adriel contacted me this week to ask the important question: “When are you free to watch A Christmas Carol?” For the first time, Adriel is going to be gone over Christmas. She wanted to make sure we got our movie in! We met for dinner before the movie, and then gathered at her home. This year, we were joined by Greg, and two of Adriel’s friends, Sara and Nate, neither of whom has seen the movie before. It is also the first time we’ve had viewers with us from outside our immediately family. I like that our definition of family is expanding to include others and that we can share fun times and meals, birthday parties and holiday traditions.
Sara and Nate were patient with the little rituals Adriel and I have around this movie. We laugh every year, at the same spots. We tear up over Tiny Tim’s death in the future that will occur if the shadow of things present do not change. We feel for Scrooge as he lives his solitary life, wealthy, but alone, feared, but not respected, tolerated for the business cunning that he has, but not loved, except by one who never gives up on him. That man, Scrooge’s nephew Fred, always makes Adriel giggle. To most, the old businessman is an odious cheapskate. We love watching his transition, from Scrooge, whose very name became synonymous with stinginess and joylessness, to Ebenezer, a generous, joyful man who “was as good a man as the good old city ever knew.” Our favorite scene, which sends us into peals of laughter, involves a dear little old woman, whose name (I just looked it up) is Mrs. Dilber. She feels very much like a family member by now. Mrs. Dilber is pawning Scrooge’s bedclothes and some personal items to Old Joe, for the money she can make off of the now dead, tight-fisted man. Her expressions, voice and words crack up us every time. We love her.
Mostly, Adriel and I experience a warming of the heart from the annual watching of this movie. We both have an ornament that has one of our favorite lines from the movie written on it: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” My ornament stays out, hanging on a bookshelf, all year long, so I can see it and be reminded to hold the love and joy of Christmas in my heart always. Adriel and I watch this movie, year after year, as a way of renewing and perpetuating that spirit.
Tonight we completed our 30th viewing of the movie. Adriel counts it as 30 as well, even though she was too young to remember the movie the first few times we watched it. I can attest, she was present. I am happy that we shared one of our favorite Christmas traditions with two others who have never seen A Christmas Carol, and with her dad, who hasn’t seen the movie nearly as often as we have. It was a warm, joyful time. And the Spirit of Christmas dwells within us all. God bless us, everyone.