We have all heard of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, in one form or another, but how many of us have actually read the original version?  I had not… until this Christmas.  When I went to do my Christmas shopping, I bought some children’s versions of it and thought it would be shameful to offer this story to kids without having read it myself, so I bought a Wordsworth unabridged version for myself.

When you pronounce the name A Christmas Carol, people who have not read the book will immediately think of a very sad story (my mum actually warned me against reading it as she thought it would depress me on Christmas eve).  However, I did not find it really sad, but rather hopeful.  I had an image of Ebenezer Scrooge being a horrible character for most of the book, but he is actually easily reformed.  The first chapter depicts him as a stingy and cruel person, probably a symbol of capitalism, but it does not take much for Scrooge to change his position.  The visit of the ghost of Marley disturbs him and when the Spirit of Christmas Past brings him on a journey through the years gone by, Scrooge soon realises that he must change if he wants to know again such happiness.  The visits of the Spirit of Christmas Present and the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come only help to convince him that his decision is the right one.  Scrooge, then, becomes a generous man and “it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well”.  I thus found this novella to be uplifting rather than depressing.

Its moral speaks to me: money does not make one happy.  In these days and ages, so many things have become so materialistic and Christmas tend to revolve around how much one can spend to buy shiny presents.  In the process, we have lost some important values and have forgotten that money is not what is the most important, even if we need some of it to survive.  The recession is Ireland has hit people quite badly.  After a decade of sudden economic growth, people have found themselves with very little to spend and this is particularly felt at Christmas time.  Some have had to explain their children that Santa cannot bring everything they desire, while others have become indebted to keep the standards of past Christmases.  I am not sure the latter teach their kids the right and important values of life.

My favourite part of Christmas this year was my Santa tour.  On the 23rd, I went around my friends’ houses to leave some presents for them and called in to my local mechanics and petrol station (one of the last where there is always an attendant to fill your tank) to give them a little package of sweetness.  I did not spend much money, but a lot of time and thinking.  Most of my presents were handcrafted and personalised and, instead of buying boxes of chocolates, I baked madeleines (a French type of biscuits).  Some might call it “cheap”, but I believe that in a time when we have too much of everything, we should learn again the value of things.  I believe that A Christmas Carol carries a similar message: learn to share, and share happiness above all, it cannot be bought with money.

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