When my kids were young we used to take a family field trip to Denver every year. We went to the Tabor Center to see the same jolly Santa with the real belly, real beard, and a sparkle in his eyes. One year a film crew from a Denver news channel was interviewing people about Christmas Traditions. I was so excited when he approached us. He asked whether we knew what The Nutcracker Suite was. Oh, I thought, I've got this one! I gushed about the ballet, Christmas tradition, how our family made it a special event to include it in some form in our Christmas every year. I am sure my kids were looking at me aghast wondering what I was talking about.
That evening we excitedly watched the news to see if our interview was included in the story. I was pretty confident. After all I had painted a pretty good picture of a family wrapped in Christmas tradition.
My heart sunk when I heard the story. The reporter's spin was that people don't really participate in those old Christmas traditions, and in fact most people didn't even know what the Nutcracker Suite was. I guess he was trying to do a Jay Leno man on the street interview. Several young couples were featured with puzzled looks on their faces as they tried to place the mysterious ballet.
Yes, I love Christmas tradition. I love the Nutcracker Suite and Christmas Choirs, and yes, every single version of A Christmas Carol.
Katie selected it for her book group this month and I realized that I had seen many many versions of the story, but could not recall having actually read it in Dickens' words. A literature major. Shameful.
So I got a version from the library and spent Thanksgiving weekend with Scrooge and his ghosts. I saw something in the reading this time that I had never seen in the movie or theater versions. The first ghost Scrooge encountered, the ghost of Christmas Past, was helping Scrooge review his wounded child. Yes Scrooge was an awful stingy and cranky guy. But it was created by his pain. And in order to heal his pain, he had to go back and look at what had caused it. Maybe because I have been having that experience as I have been moving through the grief process I especially identified with Scrooge this time around. Stingy, fearful, angry, unable to embrace joy.
I see those parts of me. But I also see what the ghosts were able to help Scrooge do. The gift of Christmas! To see and love all of those parts of himself and be free of the pain. In one night he let it all go and embraced joy, abundance, charity, hope. He began to feel compassion and pain, even grief.
Oh, Charles Dickens, you clever man.
Because that is the true gift of Christmas. To see all of myself with love and compassion. To forgive myself and accept the love that is so abundantly available to me. To open my heart to peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness. For that is a new type of journey.