By Daniel van Voorhis –
If you would like to skip all of my articles during the Christmas season and vow to read Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol instead, I would be fine with that. You might think you are tired of the story because you have seen too many film or cartoon adaptations. You may be tired of similar “what if I wasn’t alive” tropes making its way into too many T.V. shows and movies. But if you would read it, on the page, as Dickens wrote it, you might understand the kind of Christmas cheer I can’t help but spread through my music, home decor, lectures, and writing every December. If my family decides to splurge on a tombstone when I die, I’d like Dickens to be quoted on it:
“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”
I’m sure there are always going to be the John J. Flanagan’s of the world telling me to pipe down. There are pessimists who want to remind us that there is no snow in Africa this time of year (thanks, Bob Geldof, we’ll have words in this column space later). There are those who will bemoan that it is either over commercialized, over secularized, or made overly sectarian. Someone will mention that there are more suicides at this time of year than any other, and then a dozen sharing one of dozens of articles that refute that. Some will argue that the nativity probably took place in the late Summer or Fall and that this was just a Christian tradition of replacing pagan holidays (in this case, Sol Invictus) with Christian holy days (see this article for a compelling argument for a December nativity).
Some of us had holly, jolly Christmases filled with yuletide cheer. Some of us may have especially bitter memories of disappointment, or parents eagerly telling us how tight things are, and how poor we are compared to others (there are some personal issues here, check out our ViW Christmas episode coming on Dec. 7th to hear about my issues with people bumming others out around this time of year).
I’m gonna let Dickens straighten us out here. For those who want a more “realistic” and sober approach to the holiday, hear this:
“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”
For those that want to treat the season with disdain, ambivalence, or apathy, read these words from Scrooge’s nephew, Fred:
“But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that- as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
As your guide to culture, manners, and style, I will spend the next weeks writing about Christmas music, movies, and holiday survival tactics at the countless parties and gatherings. But I can’t best Dickens. Remember that we are not different races of people bound on separate journeys, but (in a somewhat morose sense) just fellow passengers to the grave. And maybe there is something around our bastardized modern English traditions that allow us to consent to open our hearts more freely. Perhaps, amidst the “fa la la’s” and yule logs we might listen in a little closer when we hear the rumor about what shines in that dark street, above our deep and dreamless sleep, and amidst the silent stars.
And then, with the proper melancholy for days gone by and those who are no longer with us, and then, with the passing glance at the talking heads in the media clanging on about some such controversy, and then, as we may cringe with thoughts of unbearable family members or office parties…. we might hear the Scrooge who has come to life with the blessed reality of goodwill on earth and peace towards mankind and believe with him that:
“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humor.”
All the Best, and a Very Merry Christmas,
The Man About Town
Written while listening to: John Fahey, “The New Possibility”
For more on the season, check out our previous Christmas shows over at Virtue in the Wasteland: