I was ready to create a new Christmas post—something I try to do every year—when I came across a binder that contained the following piece that I wrote, four years ago, for my extinct—and utterly obliterated—Amazon blog. Reading it, I realized that it said everything I want to say to you about this most magical of seasons. (Thanks to my 2007 self for doing all the work!) So here it is (with some minor editing): a cyber-angel to top the Creation Point tree.
How exactly does it happen? One minute it’s Halloween, then Thanksgiving gallops past, Madison Avenue starts shoving Christmas commercials down our throats—and I find myself feeling impossibly older, wondering how another year could have gone by so blindingly fast. I’m not remotely in the mood to deck any halls, let alone start shopping. It may not be “Christmas—bah, Humbug!” but it’s certainly, “Christmas? Not yet!” And then, suddenly:
I’m channel surfing and happen upon the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol (on TCM, of course)—and, instantly, I’m eight years old again: staying up late on Christmas Eve with my father and sister, watching both the ‘38 and (far superior) 1951 versions of ACC, which one of our local New York stations would play, over and over, all night long. (At least that’s the way I remember it. And the memory has more resonance than the reality, right?)
But it's not 1961 any more—and I’m sitting there, alone in my living room, completely enchanted by a story I’ve seen and read dozens...possibly hundreds...of times. How is it that each new encounter with A Christmas Carol—each moment of dread and hope, terror and redemption—feels utterly new? When it’s over (and by this time I’ve been joined by my wife and daughter) I sit there smiling: soul uplifted, utterly content.
A couple of days later, my wife and I go out and buy a Christmas tree. We angle it into the hatchback, head home, and the car starts to fill up with a distinctive scent of pine. That extraordinary smell goes straight to my heart: the next thing I know my eyes are thick with tears and I realize, without a doubt, that it really is Christmas.
Of course it wasn’t the scent of that particular tree that touched me so deeply, it was the scent of Christmas Itself: every Christmas I’ve ever lived through, every Christmas that’s ever been. The spirit of this season—when we celebrate the descent of God in human form—somehow transcends time and place, culture and religion, and calls forth the best of who we are as human beings on this planet. I can try to analyze it, but, really, it’s magic.
So no more grousing at commercials, no more ranting at Time for ripping through my life at warp speed. No, I’m going to breathe in the pine, plug in the lights, open the doors of our home to friends and family—and invite the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future to join us for a feast of the heart. I’m going to embrace the magic of Christmas and let it transform me.
May it transform you, too—and may we all carry that magic into the New Year and use it to transform our world in amazing and miraculous ways.
©copyright 2011 J.M. DeMatteis
I think the appeal behind A Christmas Carol lies in its central theme of redemption. In both real life and fiction, we all know people who make mistakes and treat others badly. That doesn't necessarily equal being evil and Scrooge exemplifies this theory. Dickens gave us a character who realizes that it's never too late to change and turn things around. It's a timeless message, and the fact that we reflect on it as another year of our life reaches its end gives us hope for the future. That's why it works so well to this day.ReplyDelete
I totally agree, Joseph. I'm constantly amazed at the psychological depth of Scrooge's character; the layers of the onion that are peeled away as we travel through his past and as that past impacts, and transforms, his future.ReplyDelete
I think another part of the story's appeal is that Scrooge inhabits a universe that cares enough about him to WANT to redeem him. That's an incredibly hopeful, and hugely positive, view of Creation.
I couldn't agree more. My favorite time of the year isn't so much Christmas itself, but the build-up to Christmas. There's a magic in the air between Black Friday and Christmas Eve. My family has a tradition of putting up the tree while playing the Sasoul Orchestra Vinyl or CD of Christmas carols. We watching our favorite versions of A Christmas Carol (Muppet Christmas Carol, Scrooged and the Patrick Stewart version are my favorites) and shopping for people has become a fun challenge for me as I try to think of what family and friends would like but not expect.ReplyDelete
This scratches me right where I itch, Mr. DeMatteis...although I hear there's creams for that sort of thing...
Maybe there is, Jose, but who wants a cream that will cure Christmasitis? We want to keep scratching that as long as we can!ReplyDelete
Happiest of holidays to you and yours! JMD
You're right, JMD--there's no better word for the season than magic.ReplyDelete
A CHRISTMAS CAROL has probably been retold in more ways than any story around. There is a new original graphic novel I haven't read yet titled NOEL that puts Batman in the role of Scrooge, and "Bob" is a crook he's chasing. I've heard good things. Point being less about that one story than the fact that so many writers have been tapping that well for years, and it never, ever gets exhausted.
You know what I miss? The days when it was just expected that superhero comics would have seasonal Halloween and Christmas stories. They seem like a rarity these days.
I'm with you, David: I LOVE those seasonal tales and I'd like to see them come back.ReplyDelete
And you're right about A CHRISTMAS CAROL. It's probably been redone more than any story this side of the New Testament.
A very Merry Christmas to you and yours!
And to you and yours as well, JMD!ReplyDelete