My favorite holiday story is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I’ve read the original a few times, and at least once aloud to my kids. In fact my kids grew up on various productions of the tale.
So Many Wonderful Versions
We started with Disney’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which I still rather enjoy, and moved on to Jim Henson’s A Muppet Christmas Carol, which is actually quite true to the original story despite its humorous embellishments. I find that my enjoyment of the numerous variants is based partly on how well they capture the spirit of the original, if not the actual action and dialogue.
George C. Scott’s rendition is excellent and includes the scene where a remorseful Scrooge sees a beautiful daughter that could have been his. It’s a powerful scene that’s left out of many renditions.
Also remarkable is Patrick Stewart’s version which includes another favorite but often neglected scene. The Spirit of Christmas Present takes Scrooge on a whirlwind tour of a poor mining village, a lone lighthouse keeper, a ship at sea, and elsewhere to show him how the spirit of the holiday comforts, uplifts, and unites those who otherwise would be desolate. It baffles me why this beautiful and poignant scene would be omitted from an adaptation.
Some Less Traditional
I also enjoy some less traditional interpretations that remain true to the spirit. Henry Winkler’s An American Christmas Carol is surprisingly good. Bill Murray’s Scrooged is clever and touching though the slapstick comedy may bother some. And Albert Finney is wonderful in Scrooge, a musical both dark and wondrous.
What It’s About
I’m not sure exactly why I am so enduringly drawn to A Christmas Carol. Perhaps it‘s because the story is one of reclamation, a fresh start, sins and errors wiped clean. Perhaps it is because Dickens captures some of my core beliefs about balance between the workplace and the people, customers as well as employees, upon which businesses depend.
When Scrooge is confused by the terrible fate his partner Jacob Marley endures after his death (doomed to walk the earth as a spirit shackled in chains), Scrooge says to him, “But you were always a good man of business, Jacob”.
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing his hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
The Awesome Responsibility
Dickens goes on to recount the power, and thus awesome responsibility, held by those who manage others. Brought by The Spirit of Christmas Past, Scrooge witnesses a joyous holiday party he attended as a young man. It was the annual tradition of Fezziwig, his employer at the time, to throw the gala for his friends and employees. After the festivities the Spirit, questions the praise that the young Scrooge heaps upon Fezziwig, “He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?”
“It isn’t that,” said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter self — “it isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy, to make our service light or burdensome, a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks, in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up; what then? The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”
And that’s the nut of it. We all have the power to enrich the lives of everyone we touch – our peers, our staff, our customers – or alternatively to make them more difficult. Use your power wisely. Bless you all. Happy holidays.
Jim Poulos, Melissa Rain Anderson, Kevin Ligon, Kara Lindsay, and Ned Noyes in the 2010 Geva Theatre Center production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Courtesy: huthphotography.com