10 Big Ideas from A Christmas Carol

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Are you in the holiday spirit?

“Bah!—Humbug!” you say?

I was online at the bank, and I overheard the teller ask a customer if he was ready for the holidays.  His response was he couldn’t wait for the holidays to be over.

It was Scrooge in action, and I know what that’s like.

But I also felt what a shame, if we can’t feel a little lighter, laugh a little harder, or love a little more, as we close out the year, and get ready to start a new one.

The one story that always helps me find my Christmas spirit, is A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

Whether it’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, A Muppet Christmas Carol, Scrooged, with Bill Murray, A Christmas Carol with Jim Carey, or another of the other variations, they all help us remember a time in our lives when we knew how to live a little more, laugh a little more, or love a little more.

And we can do it all again in an instant.

Here are 10 big ideas from A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens …

1. Your Right to Be Merry is a Choice, Whether You’re Rich or Poor

We can choose to exercise our right to be merry, regardless of our financial circumstances.

Via A Christmas Carol:

“I do,” said Scrooge.  “Merry Christmas!  What right have you to be merry?  What reason have you to be merry?  You’re poor enough.”

“Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily.  “What right have you to be dismal?  What reason have you to be morose?  You’re rich enough.”

2. We Wear the Chains We Forge in Life

We build our own chains that wear us down.  We do it by what we hold on to, or what we give up.   We do it by how we treat others or how we treat ourselves.

Don’t shackle yourself to the things that bog you down, and don’t create your own burdens through life.

Via A Christmas Carol:

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.  Is its pattern strange to you?”

3. Deep Within Us We’re Full of Life

Remember what it’s like to be full of life.   Our former self, or younger self, knows what it’s like to be full of life.

There is a scene in a A Christmas Carol where old Scrooge sees young Scrooge alone in a school, reading.  The books and stories made his imagination come alive and filled his mind with adventure and hope.

Via a Christmas Carol:

“’Why, it’s Ali Baba!’ Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. ‘It’s dear old honest Ali Baba. Yes, yes, I know. One Christmas time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone, he did come, for the first time, just like that. Poor boy. And Valentine,’ said Scrooge, ‘and his wild brother, Orson; there they go. And what’s his name, who was put down in his drawers, asleep, at the Gate of Damascus; don’t you see him? And the Sultan’s Groom turned upside down by the Genii; there he is upon his head. Serve him right. I’m glad of it. What business had he to be married to the Princess.’

To hear Scrooge expending all the earnestness of his nature on such subjects, in a most extraordinary voice between laughing and crying; and to see his heightened and excited face; would have been a surprise to his business friends in the city, indeed.

Then, with a rapidity of transition very foreign to his usual character, he said, in pity for his former self, “Poor boy!” and cried again.”

4. The Good Times Didn’t Cost a Fortune

It doesn’t take a fortune to feel full of gratitude.

There is a scene where Scrooge sees his younger self having the time of his life, and it didn’t cost much to make it happen.

Scrooge’s boss lifted him and everyone he worked with through words, and looks, and appreciation.

Via A Christmas Carol:

“’A small matter,” said the Ghost, “to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.’

‘Small!’ echoed Scrooge.

The Spirit signed to him to listen to the two apprentices, who were pouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig: and when he had done so, said,

‘Why! Is it not! He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?’

‘It isn’t that,’ said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self. ‘It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count them up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.’”

5. Choose the Girl, Not the Gold

Be careful what consumes you.

One one end of the spectrum, there’s love, light, and hope.  On the other end, there’s fear, darkness, and gold.

Scrooge visits his younger self, who was once in love with the girl of his dreams, but he replaced his passion for the girl with a passion for gold.  She believes it’s his fear of poverty or fear of the world that he runs from.

Via A Christmas Carol:

“’In a changed nature; in an altered spirit; in another atmosphere of life; another Hope as its great end. In everything that made my love of any worth or value in your sight. If this had never been between us,’ said the girl, looking mildly, but with steadiness, upon him; “tell me, would you seek me out and try to win me now? Ah, no!’

He seemed to yield to the justice of this supposition, in spite of himself. But he said with a struggle,’You think not?’

‘I would gladly think otherwise if I could,’ she answered, ‘Heaven knows. When I have learned a Truth like this, I know how strong and irresistible it must be. But if you were free to-day, to-morrow, yesterday, can even I believe that you would choose a dowerless girl — you who, in your very confidence with her, weigh everything by Gain: or, choosing her, if for a moment you were false enough to your one guiding principle to do so, do I not know that your repentance and regret would surely follow? I do; and I release you. With a full heart, for the love of him you once were.’

He was about to speak; but with her head turned from him, she resumed.

‘You may — the memory of what is past half makes me hope you will — have pain in this. A very, very brief time, and you will dismiss the recollection of it, gladly, as an unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you awoke. May you be happy in the life you have chosen.’”

6. Don’t Lose the Spirit of Christmas Because of Those Who Taint It

Just because some people use the holidays for their own gain or excuse, don’t let them ruin it for you.

Via a Christmas Carol:

“’There are some upon this earth of yours,’ returned the Spirit, ‘who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.’”

7. Beware of Ignorance and Want

Ignorance and Want can turn us into horrible creatures.

Via A Christmas Carol:

“They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meager, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shriveled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

‘Spirit, are they yours?’ Scrooge could say no more.

‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!’ cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.’”

8. Live With the Past, the Present, and the Future in Mind

Remember your hopes and dreams and sense of adventure, appreciate what you have now in your life, and live how you want to be remembered.

Via a Christmas Carol:

“’I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!’

‘I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!’ Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed.  ‘The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.  Oh Jacob Marley!  Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this.  I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees!’

He was so fluttered and so glowing with his good intentions, that his broken voice would scarcely answer to his call.  He had been sobbing violently in his conflict with the Spirit, and his face was wet with tears.”

9. You Can Change in an Instant

You can change the instant you choose to, given enough inspiration, motivation, or desire.

When Scrooge awoke, he realized that he could change his ways.  His future was not set in stone.  He could alter his future, if he altered his life.

He instantly felt light as a feather and felt the Christmas spirit for the first time, in a very long time.

Via A Christmas Carol:

“’They are not torn down!’ cried Scrooge, folding one of his bed-curtains in his arms, ‘they are not torn down, rings and all.  They are here — I am here — the shadows of the things that would have been, may be dispelled.  They will be!  I know they will.’

His hands were busy with his garments all this time; turning them inside out, putting them on upside down, tearing them, mislaying them, making them parties to every kind of extravagance.

‘I don’t know what to do!’ cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoon of himself with his stockings.  ‘I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy.  I am as giddy as a drunken man.  A merry Christmas to everybody!  A happy New Year to all the world!  Hallo here!  Whoop!  Hallo!’

10.  Live in a Way Your Heart Can Laugh

Find a way to laugh a little more and live a little lighter, regardless of how much, or how long, you’ve weighed yourself down.

Break the chains of your own character and choices that bind you, regardless of what the neighbors think.

Via A Christmas Carol:

“Scrooge was better than his word.  He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father.  He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.  Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms.  His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.  May that be truly said of us, and all of us!  And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!”

Don’t deny yourself of what you can be, for yourself, and for others.

Happy holidays to you and yours.

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