Although many of my holiday traditions have shifted over the years, one of my most cherished is also the oldest. Since childhood, I have watched a variety of films during the holiday season, depicting Charles Dickens’ classic story, A Christmas Carol. The George C Scott version, released as a TV movie in 1984, is my all time favorite adaptation and has been my preferred Christmas Carol for 33 years.
Daughter Adriel and son-in-law Nate hosted this year’s viewing. We were joined by Greg, Elissa and Dayan. We settled in the living room, lit by the glow of Christmas tree lights and a crackling fire in the fireplace, with cups of hot apple cider and freshly made peanut butter no bake cookies.
I never tire of watching the story of Ebenezer Scrooge unfold. A Christmas Carol is my favorite type of movie, one that has the power to impact lives through the transformative journey of the main character. As I watched the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future visit Scrooge, with the intention of changing the course of his life, I noticed a couple of things that I had not before, in spite of a lifetime of familiarity with this story.
Ebenezer connects with the boy Tiny Tim, experiencing feelings of compassion and tenderness. These are traits not evident in any other area of Scrooge’s life. It is, in fact, Tiny Tim’s uncertain future that breaks open Scrooge’s heart, which has long been barricaded from feeling anything.
I realized tonight why Scrooge first connects with this child. He identifies with him, understands him. As a boy, Ebenezer was sent away to a boarding school. His friends were imaginary characters from his beloved books. He didn’t join the adventures that his classmates had, spending time alone instead. Tiny Tim is not able to join in with the other children his age, due to his frail body and poor health. Although he has a large family, and people who love him, he is an observer of life, more than a participant, much as the boy Ebenezer was. They both live on the fringes, learning to make do. Seeing Tiny Tim allows Ebenezer to see himself again as a lonely child, more clearly and with more empathy than the memories that the ghost of Christmas past summoned.
My heart always feels very tender toward young Ebenezer Scrooge. Seeing his awakening compassion towards Bob Cratchit’s son, with fresh eyes and new insight, deepened my understanding of the hardships that shaped Ebenezer’s personality and his future.
My second new aha tonight came near the end of the movie, as the ghost of Christmas present leaves Scrooge alone in a dark part of town. Ebenezer has just had his eyes opened to the plight of the poor. His words about people going to the poor houses, or worse, dying to deplete the surplus population, suddenly seem harsh and unsettling to his own ears. In this new state of awareness, he finds himself on his own, far from home. “What have I done, to be abandoned like this?” Ebenezer asks aloud.
This scene has always bothered me, because surely the older man knows he has done many things that have caused people to dislike him. But it is not the older Scrooge who is wondering why he has been abandoned. Tonight I connected the question back to the young boy, who was alone in the boarding school. Left there by his father, who blamed Ebenezer for the death of his wife, the boy must have repeatedly asked that very same question, “What have I done, to be abandoned like this?” The question has haunted Scrooge his whole life. As a result, he closed his heart down, to protect it, and learned to take care of himself by becoming an excellent, albeit harsh, businessman.
Ebenezer teaches me that childhood experiences are powerful and vows made during those formative years shape who we become. Scrooge shows me that it is never too late to let go of those experiences and undo those vows and allow the heart to open again. His transformation at the end of the movie is my favorite part of the story. I feel Ebenezer’s joy when he realizes he has a second chance, to live with the spirit of Christmas striving in his heart and active in his life. I celebrate who he becomes.
I am grateful for another viewing of A Christmas Carol, and the impact this film has had on my life throughout the years. And I am thankful for my family. They see the value in this movie as well. I know that my mom watched A Christmas Carol tonight also, as did my son and his wife. What an incredible tradition, one that spans the years, and the generations. I look forward to many more viewings of Dickens’ beloved tale, and many more ahas.