Sunday, December 6, 2009

It Takes A Village : It Takes The Spirit

Scrooge's third visitor by John Leech

We all have our rituals, our rites of passage by which we acknowledge the transfer of day into month, month into year. The holiday season is packed with gestures and filled with traditions waiting to be celebrated. In my case, it is a well-known fact that Christmastime has not begun until the Dickens Village has been lovingly unpacked and placed - house by house, merchant by merchant, tree by tree and villager by villager - on the home hearth. This is an involved process. Perfected over the years and commemorated by a "map" lest we forget that The Green Grocer shares storefront real estate with East Indies Trading Co. while E. Tipler, Agent for Wine & Spirits must set-up shop alongside Turner's Spice & Mustard. It is also imperative that the Flat of Ebenezer Scrooge be placed at the lonely end of the mantle - far from the impressionable students of Wackford Squeers Boarding School. The "streets" bustle with parcel-picking, lamp lighting, roasted chestnut sales and carol singing. It captures every thing Christmas is meant to be, in all its Dickensian glory. And of course, A Christmas Carol is similarly time-honored. A story that encompasses the morality and lessons of a lifetime, much less a season, it always seems quite fitting to revisit at the end of a year when one is in a state of evaluation. And so as the spirits visit Scrooge, may The Spirit also visit you... however you should choose to celebrate!
Again the Ghost sped on, above the black and heaving sea - on, on - until, being far away, as he told Scrooge, from any shore, they lighted on a ship. They stood beside the helmsman at the wheel, the lookout in the bow, the officers who had the watch; dark, ghostly figures in their several stations; but every man among them hummed a Christmas tune, or had a Christmas thought, or spoke below his breath to his companion of some bygone Christmas Day, with homeward hopes belonging to it. And every man on board, waking or sleeping, good or bad, had had a kinder word for one another on that day than on any day in the year; and had shared to some extent in its festivities; and had remembered those he cared for at a distance, and had known that they delighted to remember him.

It was a great surprise to Scrooge, while thus engaged, to hear a hearty laugh. It was a much greater surprise to Scrooge to recognize it as his own nephew's, and to find himself in a bright, dry, gleaming room with the Spirit standing smiling by his side and looking at that same nephew.
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. When Scrooge's nephew laugh in this way, Scrooge's niece, by marriage, laughed as heartily as he. And their assembled friends being not a bit behind, roared out lustily...

After tea, they had some music. For they were a musical family, and knew what they were about, when they sung a glee or catch, I can assure you; especially Topper, who could growl away in the bass like a good one, and never swell the large veins in his forehead, or get red in the face over it. But they didn't devote the whole evening to music. After a while they played at forfeits; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.

- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, 1843

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