For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a particular interest in Victorian England – from the history, clothes, and food, to the stories and traditions, especially Christmas. Along with my affinity for the Victorian era is an equal and longtime love of the classic Victorian author Charles Dickens. Although I’ve enjoyed Dickens’ writings since I was young, it wasn’t until this Christmas where I was able to truly understand the connection between the author and the holiday season…and why both mean so much to me.
One of the most notable writers of his time, Dickens reflected the themes and circumstances of his time period in his writings in ways that were humorous, thrilling, thought-provoking, and often times melancholy or even heart-breaking.
Although I had read Dickens’ stories and seen movies inspired by his works, it wasn’t until I read his biography that I truly appreciated Dickens’ for the writer and the man he was, and all of the struggles he went through in life- his experience with work houses, poverty, prejudice, and loss – many of which inspired his stories.
One of the most famous of Dickens’ works, A Christmas Carol – and also my personal favorite – combines all of these themes, but centers the most on personal redemption. A Christmas Carol is a story that uses ghosts to help one man – Ebenezer Scrooge – reflect on his miserly, bitter past, present and future life, and wholeheartedly change for the better, while regaining his Christmas spirit in the process.
This love for Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was also shared by my late father. He loved nearly ever theatrical rendition of the classic, from those starring Alastair Sim and George C. Scott to his all-time favorite starring Henry Winkler. I never asked my dad why he loved the story so much, but I expect that within it, he saw similarities to his own life – growing up poor, no formal education, having to be extremely frugal with his money most of his life, losing siblings at young age and overcoming hardship to give his children a better life.
Maybe that’s why, to this day, I think of my dad whenever I see an old or new movie telling the classic story of Scrooge. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why I was so thrilled to be a part of a community theatre production of A Christmas Carol this season. Playing Scrooge’s former fiancé Belle, was almost surreal – from the full British accents, to the Victorian period phrases, songs and costumes. And because this was not just an ordinary stage play, but rather an immersive, interactive version set in a historic Victorian house, the story took on a whole new meaning for me. I was not just watching the play or reading the book…I was able to fully experience my and my dad’s favorite Christmas story come to life….and I was right in the middle of it all.
While my dad was not alive to see me take part in this classic Christmas play, I know he would have wanted to attend all four shows… watching his daughter and son-in-law, reciting his many favorite lines and perhaps waiting for the right moment to jump in to play Jacob Marley or Scrooge himself.
Having this connection to my dad will make each Christmas without him a little more meaningful…and it will remind me to always live in the past, present and the future – a wise lesson not just reserved for characters like Mr. Scrooge.
Happy Christmas Everyone!