Xmas Heroes – Charles Dickens

Xmas Heroes – Charles Dickens

Charles DickensIn 1843, Charles Dickens published a novella that has never been out of print at any time from then until today. The story has also been presented in virtually every other form of media. Dickens was already famous for his novels The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist when he released this charming tale of a stone-hearted miser’s redemption. In saving the old man’s soul from eternal punishment, Dickens also revived Christmas.

As mentioned in Historical Grinches – The Puritans, Christmas was considered to be an unruly nuisance and a mainly Catholic celebration. As such, it was basically outlawed and made socially unacceptable. In England as well as America, Christmas had gone out of style. With the telling of this tale, Dickens did a great deal to change that. He felt that creating a nostalgic sense of an English Christmas would restore some semblance of social harmony and well-being in the modern world.

As with so many of his novels, Dickens wanted to cast a spotlight on the plight of the poor. He had originally planned on sufficing with a polemic pamphlet entitled “An Appeal to the People of England on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child” but decided to embed the message in a story instead. Well done, Charles. So much the better to let the Ghost of Christmas Present harangue the miserable miser, Ebeneezer Scrooge, as part of his reclamation than to lecture his readers directly.

In truth, Dickens had already used a sample of this story line in The Pickwick Papers. He presented an idealized Christmas at Dingley Dell that is reminiscent of nephew Fred’s Christmas gathering and various other scenes that the Ghost of Christmas Present shows to Scrooge. Also, Mr Wardle tells a story about a sexton named Gabriel Grub who undergoes a Yuletide conversion like Scrooge’s.

Dickens found A Christmas Carol to be an excellent vehicle to drive the conscience of his contemporaries and all subsequent generations toward the awareness of the needy among us and the awareness that one’s own success is an obligation to be generous as Christ commanded rather than as license to assume an air of aloof superiority. As the Ghost of Christmas Present admonishes,

“Man,” said the Ghost, “if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”

Charles Dickens was the vocal conscience of his age. He sympathized with the plight of the poor in an increasingly industrialized world. Ultimately, child labor was eliminated in our society although it still remains a problem in the developing world. The welfare state is still a problematic issue. It’s good not to have people starving in the streets, but with charity comes a host of related problems that we still haven’t entirely worked out. Dependence is ultimately servitude of one kind or another. How wonderful that Dickens’ insight still speaks to us so poignantly today. How sad that we still haven’t learned all of the lessons he sought to teach.

You can read the story for yourself at Project GutenbergA Christmas Carol (cover)

Parallel Santas

Parallel Santas

People love to tell stories at Christmastime, particularly about Santa. While we know that the origin of Santa is derived from Saint Nicholas of Myra, people just love telling alternate tales of where Santa came from. Here are some of my all-time favorite stories of where Santa came from.

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

This Rankin & Bass classic introduced us to the origin of Santa independently of his historical and mythological forebears. A baby is left at the doorstep of the Burgomeister Meisterburger. The grumpy old autocrat tells his henchman to take the baby to the orphanage, but a blustery winter wind whisks the baby away to the doorstep of the Kringle family. The stop animation special leads us through a number of twists and turns until Santa is a fully fleshed out character with a brand new origin. Classic family fun!

Santa Claus: The Movie

This charming movie with Dudley Moore had Santa and his wife as a kind, elderly couple who were on their way to deliver gifts to the extended family. They succumbed to winter weather and joined a colony of elves to continue their toymaking in perpetuity. It’s a bit grim, but it does explain why Santa and his wife seem to be immortal.

Another common theme in parallel Santa origins is that it is a title that is passed from one person to the next. Here are some of my favorite stories that follow this angle.

The Santa Clause

Tim Allen is a divorced dad trying to connect with his son on Christmas Eve. When Santa falls off of his roof, the red suit becomes his destiny. This is such a funny movie. I look forward to watching it every single year. The transformation from self-absorbed corporate hack to the living symbol of generosity and holiday spirit is wonderful to watch.

Ernest Saves Christmas

Jim Varney is Ernest P. Worrell in this quirky holiday treat. Ernest is a taxi driver who picks up Santa from the airport. Santa has come to Orlando, Florida to pass the torch to another man before the magic leaves him entirely and cancels Christmas forever. Ernest’s zany behavior is a treat, as always. I always keep this on my Christmas playlist to ensure I get a smile for the holidays.

These stories and others bring a new wrinkle to the origin of Santa Claus and that much more magic to the holiday season. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. If you know of other good Santa origins, please let me know in the comments!

Have a Frostmas Party

Festive Fridays

Have a Frostmas Party

I’m a big fan of Winter and of good ol’ Jack Frost. When they characterized him as a rascal in the third Santa Clause movie, I thought that was just marvelous. Martin Short’s portrayal of Jack Frost was hilarious. One of the things he was being censured by his peers for was promoting his own holiday of Frostmas.fd

Merry Frostmas!

Merry Frostmas!

Frankly, I’m 100% in favor of it. I even started giving my kids Frostmas presents on the Winter Solstice. Let’s take a look at some more of the frosty characters we can enjoy at our Frostmas party.

In The Year Without a Santa Claus, Mrs Claus had to enlist the help of the mercurial Snow Miser and his irascible brother the Heat Miser to show Santa that people cared whether or not he participated in the holiday. Now for starters, you’ve gotta love a guy with his own theme song. Add to that an army of minions who break into synchronized dance at a moment’s notice and you’ve got a character for the ages. To this day, I can’t help but smile when I hear this song. He’s too much…

Winter Warlock and Santa
In Santa Claus is Coming to Town, we met the Winter Warlock. He was a menacing elemental figure who commanded the high reaches of the mountains outside of Sombertown. With his special blend of merry kindness and generosity, Santa eventually melts the warlock’s heart. He does seem to be a variation of the Russian mythological figure known as Ded Moroz.

After the Russian Revolution, religion was banned as an enemy of the state. Santa was outlawed like he was by the Burgomeister Meisterburger. The fantastical creature Morozko, a snow demon, was sort of Santa-fied and became the embodiment of the holiday season. Instead of Christmas, Father Frost and his helper the Frost Maiden (Snegurochka) gave presents on New Year’s Day.

Ded Moroz is a bit more harsh than Santa. Santa will give out coal or even let Zwarte Piet hand out a bit of punishment with his switches. Ded Moroz, like Jack Frost and the Snow Miser, will freeze someone who displeases him as he did in the story of the Unkind Sister. Check out this movie of his legend.

His assistant, the Snow Maiden, is not unlike Santa’s elves. She has a story of her own. There are a few variations of the Snow Maiden story which include a child who is created from a statuette of snow who grows to childhood but evaporates while jumping a campfire with her friends. Another version, she is a snow spirit who craves the company of regular folk. She wishes to love a shepherd but cannot. Her mother gives her the ability to love, but it melts her heart and consequently she melts entirely away. In Soviet times, she was rebranded as Father Frost’s granddaughter and helper.

So, here’s to nippy frostiness! Have a Happy Frostmas and enjoy the winter weather inside or out.

Christmas Movies

Christmas Movies

 by the Elf Queen

What is the attraction to Christmas movies? Why do people so enjoy losing themselves in seemingly unrealistic situations. After all, how many people have a ham smashed by a tractor trailer truck in the grocery parking lot? Or, who would bring a reindeer into one’s home and put it in front of the fireplace? There are many types of Christmas movies, from the traditional It’s A Wonderful Lifeto the latest version of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Of course, these movies are pleasant, even tame compared to the many horror movies related to Christmas-including Santa’s Slay or Christmas Evil or even Jack Frost.

One certainly has a wide variety of movies to choose from for a night of holiday entertaining. Some might find Santa Claus Conquers the Martiansto be a top choice, though you would be among the few who like that movie. What ever movie you watch, the movie has to be entertaining and enjoyable to you.

Our family likes to watch It’s A Wonderful Life at least once each Christmas season. The grandparents, however, do not. They enjoy watching Christmas with the Kranks or A Christmas Story. One of our aunties loves to watch Elf. Each family must choose a movie with meaning special to them.

Since there are so many movies to choose from, it would be wise to read recommendations from several organizations before picking one that means Christmas to your family. The Back Row and Total Film have reviewed and listed weirdest Christmas movies; the Huffington Post, funny Christmas movies. Plugged In from Focus on the Family has 493 Christmas movies reviewed from a Christian perspective. (493 Christmas movies!) Finally, one can always check out IMDB or Netflix for a listing of Christmas movies each reviewed by fellow movie fans.

It is our hope that you can find a Christmas movie that is entertaining to you and your family, one that moves you and reminds you of the hope Christmas brings to us all.

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