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Growing up there were two television shows that would be watched in our house that would tell me Christmas was right around the corner. One was televised on Christmas Eve itself. This was the annual broadcast of the 1951 version of “A Christmas Carol” more correctly titled Scrooge); the black and white classic which starred Alastair Sim as the quintessential Ebenezer Scrooge. Each and every Scrooge that has come along since owes, at the very least, a tip of the hat to this 1951 cinematic masterpiece.
Christmas still isn’t Christmas without a viewing of that movie. I must have watched it a hundred times or more in my lifetime and I still tear up at Scrooge’s redemption. I know for a lot of people Christmas is “It’s A Wonderful Life” and, having finally seen it for the first time a few years back, I can fully understand why. It is a wonderful movie.
But for my money nothing can hold a candle to “Scrooge”. Check it out on YouTube in nine parts. If you have never seen it, then do yourself a favour; you really, REALLY need to watch this movie. As Bill Murray noted in the excellent parody Scrooged “You’re life might well depend upon it.
Here then, on the ubiquitous youtube, is that great Christmas classic, with an introduction by the ever awesome Patrick MacNee.
The second television event which always spelled Christmas for me was, and still is A Charlie Brown Christmas. Is there any other special out there that so keenly captures the joy; the absolute beauty of a child discovering that there is more to Christmas than initially meets the eye. If there is I would sorely like to see it. Sadly, the complete episode is not available online. To give you a taste, I include one of the most poignant moments of the whole show in this clip, Linus’ soliloquy about the meaning of Christmas.
In the end though, for me, Christmas has always meant getting together with my Aunt Martha, Uncle Bruce and my three cousins, Bryan, Andrew and Katherine. My folks and I would come into Scarborough for Christmas Day dinner and they would go to my folks place for New Years Day dinner. The following year, the roles would be reversed. This tradition continued for many, many years; eventually incorporating Andrew’s wife Sheley, Kath’s husband Andy and their kids and my spouse Rhonda. The table got pretty darned crowded. Bryan, his spouse Judy and their kids live in Calgary so their appearances have been somewhat limited, although they are never far from mind and always in our hearts.
Contrary to popular belief I do like Christmas carols; I do. It’s just that my tolerance for the genre was supremely challenged when I worked retail and would start listening to festive tunes somewhere around the first week of November. By the time Christmas rolled around I had little time for Christmas tunes. No “Bah Humbug!” when I left work. More like, thank goodness I can listen to whatever it is that I want to now. Sometimes that actually does include Christmas music. I’ve just never been able to see the logic in forgoing any other kind of music during the Christmas season.
What would my favourite Christmas carol be? “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”; more of a Christmas Hymn, I know. It’s my favourite; I’m sure, in no small part to the fact, at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas, the Peanuts gang all gather round Charlie Brown’s beautiful tree and sang that hymn as the credits rolled. Then again, maybe it’s because it was the recessional hymn at our Carol Service on Christmas Eve while I was growing up. Either way, it is a very powerful song which can still bring a tear to my eye on that oh so Holy Eve. I remember some Christmas Eve’s leaving church in the cold hours after midnight with a fresh layer of snow upon the ground when none had been present as we first entered a couple of hours earlier.
Just as Charlie Brown did in his special, I have felt for years that Christmas has lost its way somewhere. People seem far more concerned about buying a gift which will top the gift their friend might buy for them; Christmas lists get longer and longer; people’s tempers get shorter and shorter. Isn’t this supposed to be the time of year when we all embrace the phrase “Peace on earth, good will toward men” even if for only a little while?
If there has ever been a time of year to be with those you love, without condition, without reservation, then this must surely be it. Truth be told, the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day must surely be a time of sublime reflection and thankfulness; for all that we have; for all of our blessings, regardless of how copious or limited those blessings may or may not be; but mostly we must be thankful for those whom we love and those who love us; friends, family, acquaintances. Need not matter. To say that kind of appreciation and reflection should actually exist on a year round basis is a gross understatement. Yet, now is the time, if at no other time during the year. Count your blessings; smile at someone who has never smiled at you. Be the type of person that you have always wished you could be.
And so I leave you now saying to you and yours, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year,