“These are but shadows of things that have been.” ~ The Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
This timeless story has been a favourite of mine for over thirty years.
Every year I revisit it and, each time, I have seen Scrooge as a miserly, miserable and embittered man who avoided Christmas and people, then was transformed by the visitations of the three spirits.Bah Humbug!
He certainly had the financial means to make Christmas beautiful, not only for himself, but others.
He chose to be miserable. He chose to slam the doors shut on people and Christmas!
Until this past Christmas, that is how I had seen Scrooge for thirty plus years.
Having had the unfortunate circumstance of being sick the entire season of Christmas, I was beginning to feel as Scrooge must have felt every Christmas.
Both of us alone at Christmas and eating our meal of despair, each of us for different reasons.
The unwelcome guests of the past, as with Scrooge, came knocking at my heart.
Despair had taken up residence.
Although Christmas had now passed and the New Year had arrived, it seemed I was suffering from post-Christmas depression.
I could not understand it!
I was nothing like Scrooge.
I loved Christmas.
Scrooge hated it!
I swung the doors wide open to embrace Christmas.
Scrooge slammed the door shut!
Why, then, were we suddenly soulmates?
Christmas is a complicated time. The feelings of joy and despair come without warning. Money is never the factor, as I have learned long ago.
It is, as the ghost of Christmas past had said to Scrooge, “the shadows of things that have been,” which haunt us at the most inconvenient of times.
My epiphany did not come while lying in bed.
It came as I was walking along the streets and seeing the discarded remnants of Christmas.
The tree that had been perfect just two days before, was already at the curbside.
The crumpled wrapping paper that held the perfect gifts was in garbage bags beside the tree.
At the curbside of too many homes, were old toys, perhaps from the Christmas before.
Outdoor decorations were being taken down.
Had the magic of Christmas been discarded as well?
Had it been something only money can buy?
Why, then, not be as Scrooge?
Ignore Christmas altogether!
Why exhaust ourselves, spend too much money, cook too much food, and spend hours decorating and wrapping gifts?
Because, good people, there is no magic pill to guarantee us joy and to make Christmas perfect.
We must learn that harsh lesson in the midst of Christmas music, coloured lights, or being sick.
As despair lingers like an unwelcome guest, despite the tinsel glittering and all the trappings of what Christmas should be.
We must face that inevitable and undeniable fact.
We cannot escape Christmas!
Christmas will come and go, no matter what our financial circumstance, how we feel about it, nor the state of our health.
Christmas is not about the perfect tree or the perfect gift.
It is not about trying to fulfill unreasonable expectations.
We must welcome it with reverence and keep it.
Christmas for me entered gently this year.
It lingered for a time in a cloud of despair.
But as Scrooge and I both recognized from different perspectives .
Christmas comes and goes.
It is mixed with both joy and despair.
But we must keep it!
Keep it in our hearts and carry it throughout the year.
And keep it I will!
My tree still shines beautifully, the decorations are still up.
My Christmas will be celebrated with my children and grandchildren, two weeks late.
Christmas has not left my home, nor my heart.
I look forward to revisiting my old friend Scrooge next year, with a renewed spirit.
“And although [Christmas] has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket I believe it has done me good and I say, God bless it!”
— Irene Motz