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Blessings on it, how the Ghost exulted! How it bared its breadth of breast, and opened its capricious palm, and floated on, outpouring, with a generous hand, its bright and harmless mirth on everything within its reach! The very lamplighter, who ran on before, dotting the dusky street with specks of light, and who was dressed to spend the evening somewhere, laughed out loudly as the Spirit passed, though little kenned the lamplighter that he had any company but Christmas!
Author: Charles Dickens
Synopsis: Miserly, unfriendly Ebenezer Scrooge has been making money and shunning family and friends for so long that no one remembers him as anything but a miserable, mean old man. As a last effort toward his redemption, the ghost of his old business partner appears to him one Christmas Eve and explains that he will be visited by three spirits. The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future appear to Scrooge in their turn and work their Christmas magic over him, offering him a thorough change of heart and soul.
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We've all seen variations on this, of course. Among my favorites are the Muppet Christmas Carol, the play "Scroooooge!", and Bill Murray's hilarious movie version "Scrooged", as well as the version my department did for the company Christmas decorating contest a year and a half ago ... good times!
The book is one of the sweetest stories I've ever read. Without being a theological treatise on the afterlife, it manages to be thoroughly Christian--human, redemptive, beautiful; as Dickens stated in his preface, "My chief purpose was, in a whimsical kind of masque which the good humour of the season justified, to awaken some loving and forbearing thoughts, never out of season in a Christian land."
I love Christmas, myself--not the commercialized nonsense we practice as a society, but the real thing, solemn and joyous, full of family and feasting and wonder at the Incarnation. I'd cheerfully give up the exchange of presents for the return of such a thing. As for my family, we do our best, and our Christmases--even the painful ones--have always been blessed.