Friday, December 24, 2010

Dickens and My Xmas Spirit

Xmas is probably my least favorite time of the year. You can think of me as one of those people with seasonal blues. It is much better than it used to be. I used to get completely depressed this time of year and just want to hide the entire month. It wasn't until a Unitarian minister, Andrea, once suggested that I find the good things about the season and celebrate them. The bad: throw them out. I have been perfecting this holiday culling ever since.

The rampant materialism of the season is one of the biggest downers. I not only avoid big box stores this time of year, but towns that have big box stores in them. I try to buy gifts that have some meaning to me and hopefully to the recipient. . I also try to go as green and as local as possible. I can't deal with buying something that will just end up in a landfill a month later This year I bought my co-workers in NYC a bunch of Vermont made products. They will enjoy these and think of me while doing so. I also helped the local economy in the process. We decorate our tree tastefully and minimally and compost it in the yard afterwards. The amount of energy and resources being wasted on Xmas lights and lawn ornaments is soul crushing. I cannot go for a drive without shuttering ... and the music, don't get me going about the awful music that takes over the world.

I have stopped travelling for the holidays. The undertaking was too complicated and did nothing to bring any positive spirits into my life. Travelling to see my relatives usually had the opposite effect on my mood. So we stay home here in Vermont and have a quiet holiday. Since I hate most traditional holiday music I have compiled a good list of MP3's that I can deal with. Now I have a nice collection of holiday favorites by Bruce Cockburn, Gandalf Murphy and Shawn Colvin et al. On Xmas Eve we listen to some music, get a little toasted and then listen to the Grinch on CD (the audio is better than the video). It is quiet and simple and I am no longer depressed during the season. Thank you Andrea. Taking charge of your life rarely has a bad result.

It occurred to me today that one of the things I do enjoy about the holiday season is the sudden interest in Charles Dickens. I do realize it is only one book, The Christmas Carol, but it is a great book and it does seem to appear everywhere during December whether it is Patrick Stewart's reading of it or The Six Million Dollar Man's version ... the story is so canonized, it is everywhere. (Here is a good list of adaptations.) If just a small portion of the folks that are exposed to this classic during December decide to pick up one of his other books, this is enough to make me happy.

Dickens spent three months of his childhood working in a shoe polish factory pasting labels on bottles while his father resided in debtors prison. This experience had a deep impact on Charles' work. Much of his work involves the plight of the poor with some underlying socialistic themes which give an ironic twist to the largely materialistic holiday season. Much of Dickens' stuff was published in serial form but The Christmas Carol was only a novella so it was published without ever appearing in the newspaper. It was originally published in October 1843 with 6,000 copies in the original printing. They were all sold out by Xmas. He had published it entirely with his own money and barely made his money back. Since it was published, charitable giving has become apart of the holidays and it has shifted from a church holiday to a family holiday. That is quite an impressive legacy.

No comments: