Keeping Christmas every day
December 21, 2023
"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."
These words from Ebenezer Scrooge as he pleads for his hope of redemption are the climax and heart of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens - one of my all-time favorite Christmas stories.
Last year I wrote a column sharing some of my favorite adaptations of the story after getting to see the musical production by The Horizon Theater. This year, our talented local theater community once again gave me a new adaptation to ponder, this time with the Actors' Mission production of "The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge."
This version of the story in particular got me thinking even more about Scrooge's promise to keep Christmas all the year, and the concept of what "Christmas every day" means and actually looks like.
Admittedly, I was skeptical when I first heard about "The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge." The premise is that Scrooge has relapsed back to his old ways one year after the events of the original story, and he is suing Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas for such charges as attempted murder, kidnapping, pain and suffering, etc. My first thought was that this concept completely undermines the point of the original and Scrooge's redemption.
However, Director Rick Cozad told me the play isn't as much of a departure from the original as it may seem. Wanting to support my friends at Actors' Mission, I went to the show opening night. I'm so glad I did. I not only thoroughly enjoyed it, but wanted to see it again. Rather than being a sequel, most of the play is essentially a clever and amusing way to retell the familiar story, while adding a twist at the end.
Spoiler alert - rather than undermining Scrooge's redemption, the play seeks to expound on it. He did not, in fact, relapse into his old ways. He simply acted as though he did to prove a point, and to bring the Ghosts of Christmas up to speed with their own lessons. At the end of the play, he exposes them for only working one night of the year to help people seek redemption, and he gets them to agree to work every night - to keep Christmas all the year, as they taught him to do.
The thought of Scrooge honoring Christmas in his heart every day also got me thinking about just how much the concept of "Christmas every day" is a part of our seasonal vocabulary.
Just like there are countless versions of "A Christmas Carol," there are nearly as many versions of songs and stories revolving around the concept of every day feeling like Christmas, or wishing every day could be Christmas. Just putting those words together is enough to get at least five different songs stuck in my head. But the one that comes to mind the most is one from my childhood - "If Every Day Could Be Christmas" by Lonestar. Admittedly, the song isn't unique to Lonestar, but I grew up on 90s country, so that was the version playing while we put up our Christmas tree or drove around town to look at Christmas lights.
"If every day could be Christmas, What a wonderful world this would be, We could carry this feeling within us All through the year."
As children, the thought of every day being one of presents, games, food, and no school is the perfect dream.
As adults, we realize how much this would be a logistical nightmare and, on all practical levels, is impossible. We also understand the concept that something special becomes ordinary when it becomes an everyday occurrence.
But the point of most of all those songs isn't actually that we should celebrate a holiday endlessly, but that, like Scrooge, we should keep the same feelings and ideals throughout the year.
"It's that time We open up and give from our hearts, Let love shine brighter than any star," the Lonestar song continues.
Christmas is often seen as a time of extra generosity, kindness, forgiveness, and joy. As Scrooge's nephew Fred puts it:
"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."
But if Christmas is the only time in the long calendar year we live this way, there's a problem.
If the Spirits only worked towards redemption on Christmas Eve, no wonder Scrooge would be upset with them. But as the Spirit of Christmas Present says in my favorite film version of "A Christmas Carol" (from 1951):
"We Spirits of Christmas do not live only one day of our year. We live the whole three-hundred and sixty-five. So is it true of the Child born in Bethlehem. He does not live in men's hearts one day of the year, but in all days of the year."
Let's strive to keep the love, generosity, and perspective of Christmas in our hearts every day of this coming new year.