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Did Dickens save the day?

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Posted: Friday, December 19, 2008 10:00 pm

In Charles Dickens' Victorian England, Christmas was not even distantly similar to what it evolved into 200 years later.

In the mid-19th century, there were no Christmas cards, no decorated trees, no retail store sales, no turkeys or roasts, no gift exchange, no parties, no Parade of Lights and certainly no Santa Claus. The public barely acknowledged Christmas and considered it a minor holiday when compared to Easter.

In the eyes of many, Christmas was more closely associated with paganism than with the birth of Jesus.

A recently released book by Les Standiford titled "The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits" boldly attributes the Christmas revival in Western civilization over the last two decades to Dickens and his short tale.

While the claim that Dickens "invented" Christmas may seem an overstatement, in his 1844 review of "A Christmas Carol," British poet Thomas Hood agreed, noting, "If Christmas, with its ancient and hospitable customs, its social and charitable observances, were in danger of decay, this is the book that would give them a new lease."

Standiford points out that Dickens' novel provided a secular counterpoint to the Nativity story and gave readers an example of what the true Christmas spirit meant, including social justice and a decent life for all.

Wrote Standiford, "Just as vital as the celebration of the birth of a holy savior into a human family was the glorification and defense of the family unit itself."

What's most remarkable about "A Christmas Carol" is that even though it was written in a mere six weeks almost 165 years ago, the novel's theme of greed and social injustice could not be more timely.

Is there much difference between Ebenezer Scrooge, the financier who has devoted his life to the accumulation of wealth, and Richard Fuld or Bernard Madoff, the two disgraced Wall Street money grubbers?

The book has long been a central part of our Christmas season. And so have various stage performances, readings, radio dramas, television plays, Broadway musicals, symphonies and operas dating back for more than a century.

Over the years, Scrooge has been, at various times, presented as a gay man, a black man, a woman, a television executive and a Muppet.

Countless amateur and regional productions, some of which make clever use of local themes, are staged annually.

For example, during each year of its existence, the 11-year-old Pollard Theater in Guthrie, Okla. has performed "A Territorial Christmas Carol," an adaptation set in Guthrie in 1889, during the Oklahoma land rush, with Scrooge as an evil land baron.

The troupe's founding director, Charles C. Suggs II, said ticket sales for the classic sustained the theater through its first season. Currently sales run about 5,000 tickets during its six-week stint at the end of every year, even though the city's population is only 10,000. That's twice the total of any of the theater's other offerings.

Movie versions include a 1901 silent film, followed then in 1938 with Reginald Owen as Scrooge; 1951, Alastair Sim; 1970, Albert Finney; 1984, George C. Scott; 1988, Bill Murray, and 1999, Patrick Stuart.

Of all the Dickens' works, "A Christmas Carol" is the most adapted. No other novel has left such an indelible mark on Western popular culture.

As a tribute to its greatness, "A Christmas Carol" has survived political correctness. There has been - to the best of my knowledge - no performance titled "A Holiday Carol" or "A Winter Festival Carol."

Joe Guzzardi wishes all of his Lodi friends a very Merry Christmas. You will be in his thoughts and prayers all season long. Contact him at guzzjoe@yahoo.com.

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Welcome to the discussion.

18 comments:

  • posted at 11:04 am on Tue, Dec 30, 2008.

    Posts:

    "Over the years, Scrooge has been, at various times, presented as a gay man, a black man, a woman, a television executive and a Muppet."I am sure that the actor Michael Caine, would love to know he was a muppet in -The Muppet Christmas Carol.(laughing.)Maybe I missed an episode of the Christmas edition where a muppet played scrooge!

     
  • posted at 10:50 am on Thu, Dec 25, 2008.

    Posts:

    "In the mid-19th century, there were no Christmas cards, no decorated trees, no retail store sales, no turkeys or roasts, no gift exchange, no parties, no Parade of Lights and certainly no Santa Claus. The public barely acknowledged Christmas and considered it a minor holiday when compared to Easter." Then the "Greater London Merchants Association" convinced Charles Dickens to help them separate the British citizens from their money. Boy, was it ever successful. Within fifty years people were spending money on things they couldn't afford and merchants were raking in the dough.

     
  • posted at 3:10 am on Wed, Dec 24, 2008.

    Posts:

    Um, OK, Gator. I think I get it now; you want me to acknowledge a dressing-down you feel you've inflicted on me, don't you? Well, then, in the spirit of Chistmas...OH! OW! That HURT! OH, GATOR! PLEASE! I'M BEGGING YOU! PLEASE STOP HURTING ME! I PROMISE I'LL BE GOOD! I PROMISE!!Is that better?Or do you need to have more?

     
  • posted at 3:24 pm on Tue, Dec 23, 2008.

    Posts:

    Say goodnight willie!!

     
  • posted at 3:23 pm on Tue, Dec 23, 2008.

    Posts:

    I would have to say you are totally clueless Willie, sorry I guess your just a legend in your own mind!!

     
  • posted at 10:28 am on Tue, Dec 23, 2008.

    Posts:

    I'm sorry Gator, but I have no idea what you're trying to say.

     
  • posted at 7:41 am on Tue, Dec 23, 2008.

    Posts:

    Just for you Voter( I wonder if you do vote) I disagree with Joe on a lot of his op-eds, that being said, of his last two, I couldnt agree more!!!

     
  • posted at 7:37 am on Tue, Dec 23, 2008.

    Posts:

    It would seem as little Willie was AWOL from the previous site when the incoming fire got to heavy(2 days) one would assume that he ducked forCover only to appear in a less dangerous environment Your snaky petty little remarks seem to want to spin around and bite you where you sit.. Youknow to bad your name isnt Hal as shallow Willie doesnt sound all thatGood

     
  • posted at 4:02 am on Tue, Dec 23, 2008.

    Posts:

    I don't think I'm that hard to find, am I, Gator?But, since you've finally figured out how to get here, you can LOCK AND LOAD for your shooting war against others here, too, except this column doesn't fit your agenda quite as well. I'll be interested to watch you try to make a case, though.

     
  • posted at 3:21 pm on Mon, Dec 22, 2008.

    Posts:

    Gator, do you have an opinion to add to Joe's column? If not, you are the one who has become the troll.

     
  • posted at 2:26 pm on Mon, Dec 22, 2008.

    Posts:

    Only in your mind, I thought I would check out Joes new entry and low andbehold little Willie came over here after he took to much heat on the otherSide. As for stalking anyone, I think that would be when Hell freezes over.I like pulling the trolls string, you got a problem with that???

     
  • posted at 1:50 pm on Mon, Dec 22, 2008.

    Posts:

    Gator, it sounds as if you are stalking someone.

     
  • posted at 12:02 pm on Mon, Dec 22, 2008.

    Posts:

    Little willie,there you are!! I thoughtyou got mad and took your ball and went home!! I get it you moved over here where you arn't taking so much heat!!at least for now...

     
  • posted at 9:20 am on Sun, Dec 21, 2008.

    Posts:

    "Or was it the part about uber-pious Hyper Christians (you know, the ALL GOD, ALL THE TIME ones who imagine themselves bouncing on God's lap for eternity) wanting to ban non-Catholics and disbelievers from having Christmas Holiday in their own way?"Where did you run into those?

     
  • posted at 5:59 am on Sun, Dec 21, 2008.

    Posts:

    Why thank you, Neo, I sincerely appreciate that. I never claim to be anything more, nor anything less, than a complete moron.Before you rush off to church to claim your blessings, could you please tell me what part of my post led you to believe I am attacking Christmas? I'd like to know.Was it the part about the lying, self-possessed and sanctimoneous so-called christians attacking more secular citizens? Or was it the part about uber-pious Hyper Christians (you know, the ALL GOD, ALL THE TIME ones who imagine themselves bouncing on God's lap for eternity) wanting to ban non-Catholics and disbelievers from having Christmas Holiday in their own way?Or was it something else?

     
  • posted at 11:30 am on Sat, Dec 20, 2008.

    Posts:

    Joe asks in his title, "Did Dickens save the day?"Sorry, Joe, it wasn't Dickens....it was the federal government. LOL!http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/Federal_Bail_Out_Applic1.pdfAt least for the banks, wall street and "big three"Hey! Maybe we should all print this out and send it to the Treasury to get our own bailouts for Christmas!

     
  • posted at 11:12 am on Sat, Dec 20, 2008.

    Posts:

    Billy you are, quite simply, an idiot. You are attacking Christmas? I pity you.

     
  • posted at 5:31 am on Sat, Dec 20, 2008.

    Posts:

    But Joe, I don't understand.In your last column you said America had been destroyed because of the P.C. types' "attacks" on traditional Christmas.Now you're trying to make your readers believe that Christmas has not been in exactly its current form since baby Jesus was born in the manger on Dec. 25. Can't someone please make sense of this? Can't anyone stop these senseless attacks on our American Biblical Heritage? This Great Christian Nation was founded by Jesus Christ on Christmas Day, by the Great One Himself, with the help of His close friend Santa and his team of founding reindeer. And anyone who disagrees can't call it Christmas; they'll have to call it something else.

     

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