Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Keep Christmas Well

Christmas is a time of ritual and tradition. I wanted to share a favorite of mine.

In 1992 I had just turned seven years old, and my dad decided that I was old enough to join him in a
Christmas tradition of his own making. Reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

The story is simple enough to understand, and you can’t survive a Christmas season without hearing at least one reference to it.  But if you’ve read the book, Dicken’s old English proves to be fairly heavy reading for a seven year old. In those first couple years, the reading was slow going, as my dad patiently explained and expounded on different vocabulary and concepts. As I recall, it took a long time to get through all 114 pages of the short Christmas story.

Each year after that, Dad would approach me and ask if I was ready to read. Some nights we’d be more tired than others, but year after year, night after night, my dad would come to me and read words that would seep into my soul. It was always theatrical, every character was given a different voice, mannerisms, and personality thanks both to Mr. Dickens and my dad. Occasionally Dad would get emotional as he’d read about poor Bob Cratchet losing his son. Sometimes Dad would take a particular line from the book and apply it to our lives, teaching me valuable lessons of his own heart. 

Of course I grew up (as children tend to do) and moved away from home, but the tradition continued on my own. Dad would call and ask when I was planning to start reading, or what part I was on.  I’ve been reading it for ten years on my own now and each time I begin I get the unmistakable thrill of the Christmas Spirit finally beginning, along with the ache of not being that little girl in pajamas listening to Scrooge and Marley come to life through my dad’s voice. I miss reading it with my Dad, but we are still connected through the tradition.

When Marley appears to Scrooge wearing his ponderous chain which has been forged by his earthly sins he cries, “I made it link and link and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” Though Marley’s chains were created out of sin, I think of the chain my dad forged “link by link and yard by yard,” as he created a Christmas tradition that would bond us together, that would shape my childhood and influence my adulthood, and of my own free will I wear it. 

Now as I approach my 21st reading of A Christmas Carol, I contemplate when I will sit down with my daughter Hannah, and introduce her to my favorite tradition. I look forward to carrying on what my dad started: a labor of love.

“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”

No comments: