Scrooge … became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew…. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter….. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him. … It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.
You no doubt recognize this as the conclusion of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, who wrote the book in six weeks in 1843 because the holidays were coming and he was nearly broke. He had to earn some money. The book was so immediately successful that it went into a second printing right before Christmas and has been in print ever since. There’s a memorable movie called The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017), starring Dan Stevens as an unstable Dickens. As the movie tells the story, most of the characters in the novel turn up in Dickens’ “real life” and either inspire or force him to write the book. Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) follows him all over London and forces him to confront his childhood. The climax is both dramatic and satisfying.
And who hasn’t seen at least one of the movies about Scrooge’s memorable Christmas Eve—1938 starring Reginald Owen, 1951 starring Alastair Sim, 1984 starring George C. Scott (my favorite), 1999 starring Patrick Stewart. I bet we’ve all also seen live productions. In December of 2008, I saw the play at the Kodak Theatre (home of the Oscar broadcasts) in Hollywood starring Christopher Lloyd as Scrooge and John Goodman as the Ghost of Christmas Present. These two actors were terrific, but the director and set designer had made some really bizarre decisions and even though the show told the story adequately, it received a deserved negative review by the L.A. Times.
Scrooge’s name has been turned into a common noun: a scrooge is a mean, miserly skinflint. And it’s a verb: if you scrooge someone, you shortchange and abuse them, just like Scrooge kept doing when he made a business deal instead of going to Marley’s funeral, refused to buy enough coal for a fire to keep his office warm and refused to pay Bob Cratchit enough to support his family, asked the men collecting for the poor if the poorhouses had been closed, and rudely turned down his nephew’s invitation to dinner.
But my purpose in writing this post today is to focus not on the old, mean Scrooge but on the transformed man. There’s an interesting book on this subject: Transforming Scrooge by Joseph D. Cusumano. If we can read New Age philosophy (including the Course in Miracles) without giggling and do not object to projecting mid-20th-century psycho-spiritual theory onto a Victorian author, we learn that Scrooge experienced an alien abduction (by the three Ghosts), suffered a sort of chakra breakdown and rebuild, and then underwent a kundalini rising that “shattered the chains of his miserable, lonely childhood and his miserly, solitary adulthood” and led him into “a new-found spiritual attitude about his own life and a caring concern for the general welfare of the planet.”
His first teacher that fateful Christmas Eve is his oldest friend, who comes to him as a miserable ghost and starts the lessons:
[Scrooge asked], “But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?”
“It is required of every man,” [Marley’s] Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world … and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!”
What lessons can Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future teach us? Although pagans like me don’t celebrate Christmas as Christians do, we celebrate the winter holidays. We know that spirits walk upon the earth at the solstice and that they often have lessons for us. Considering all the misery the world has been going through this year—is our Blessed Mother Planet being scrooged to death?—I think you and I and all of us should do everything we can to change our thinking and somehow learn the lessons Dickens’ character learned. We can walk abroad among our fellowmen and women and learn to laugh and to be kind. How else can we emulate the transformed Scrooge? Let’s lay down the old miser and focus on the new, happy, generous man. Let us also be as happy and generous as we can be and do what we can to help others, as Scrooge did when he became Tiny Tim’s second father.
Goddess rest you merry, gentlefolk,
Let nothing you dismay.
The solstice spark will call us back
When we are gone astray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy.
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic. Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations. When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the Neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.