A Bit of Dickens’ Christmas
I do have more coming about the history of the celebration of Christmas, but this weekend my time was taken up with the actual activities of the season (decorating, a party, attending church, writing Christmas cards). So, in lieu of a proper post, here’s a quote from one of the stories I read every year at this time: Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in Prose
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me I”
Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple deep green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust.1
I love this because it is so very British. This pre-dates Nast’s image of Santa Claus, and is much more in the vein of Father Christmas, the Bishop Saint Nicholas, and idealized concepts of British paganism. Growing up in the Episcopal Church, I was aware of Saint Nicholas the bishop and historical figure in addition to the American Santa Claus; on top of that, my father lived in England when a boy and so we also had images of Father Christmas. The Ghost of Christmas Present encompasses all these things for me: the bishop, the gift-bringer, and the joy and generosity of spirit which warms us at Christmastime and, in the words of the Muppet Ghost of Christmas Present, hopefully lasts all year.