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No spoilers in this review of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Special thanks to Sarina Byron, a BSR contributor who wrote this great review! Sarina is a British Author and Contributing Writer living in California. Sarina enjoys bringing forth a different perspective and encouraging a different way of thinking through her writing. Visit her blog to read her reviews, and check the end of the review for a link to her Instagram.

Christmas is a funny time of the year. As cheerful as it is, there is a lot to do, what with gifts to send, cards to write, and the house to decorate, all of which can turn us into the Grinch very fast. Thank heaven that we have stories like A Christmas Carol to keep the Christmas spirit alive within us.

I first read A Christmas Carol when I was under ten years old, and it explained life in a way that no one else could. You see, A Christmas Carol uses fear in an interesting manner to show us how to create a life with no regrets. It might fascinate you to know Dickens himself was going through a fearful phase in regard to his finances and popularity when he wrote this story.

Perhaps it was the fear of what his life may turn into if he gave up or grew bitter that made him think of the three ghosts. It wouldn’t be the first time the fear of becoming irrelevant drove someone on. After all, isn’t that what happened to Scrooge? He finds out through the spirits that, despite all his money, people care very little for him, and whist it does not matter to him as long as he keeps bringing in the money, it did matter to him when no one cared that he had departed.

Scrooge measured everything in terms of money, and that is how he lost the value of relationships. As the book famously said about him ”Darkness is cheap and Scrooge liked it”. Darkness is cheap, and so is not eating out, not going out, not buying anyone gifts, not buying oneself gifts, and so on. There are a number of things which lose their value when we compare them to money, but that is the point of this story.

At a time of the year when a lot of us are trying to pick gifts for those dear to us, A Christmas Carol reminds us Christmas is about more than merrymaking and the cost of things. It is about charity, giving, and spreading joy. Whether that appears in the form buying an extravagant gift for someone dear to show them you care or whether that manifests as you donating money to a cause that matters to you, what is important is that you evaluate and act. Scrooge never evaluated and, therefore, never considered acting on any charity that occurred to him. His tale serves as a cautionary one.

Of life, Scrooge interestingly says:

There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth.

I was particularly hit by this sentence, not because the emotion is new but because it is familiar. This statement makes me wonder what Dickens had experienced that led to his understanding of this complex matter. As we know, he was deeply moved by the social injustices of his time, and perhaps it was these issues that made him realize life is extremely tough on the poor. But perhaps he also surmised those who seek to leave life behind and pursue wealth face almost as much contempt as the poor.

Perhaps when Dickens wrote Oliver Twist, he realized in the creation of characters such as Fagin, Sikes, and the Artful Dodger that all they wanted was to be financially comfortable. Perhaps whilst observing the motivations of people that inspired these characters, Dickens realized the pursuit and process of building wealth can cause one to be rejected by one’s own loved ones and society both.

This story is full of lessons, but it’s the ones that stay with us that matter. Apart from the lesson above about the quest for wealth, the other one that struck a chord with me was this one imparted by the Ghost of Christmas Present:

There are some on this earth of yours… who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.

In saying this, he has reminded us that often the ones pretending to be the most pious and condemning others are, more often than not, completely unaware of the nature of the divine. Apart from the obvious lesson that one ought to be careful of the trappings of passing judgement, we need to appreciate the delicate position of taking responsibility. When we hold ourselves (and not others) responsible for our actions and reactions, the quality of both improves. Sometimes I am amazed at how much insight into the human mind Dickens’ books carry. There is so much wisdom interwoven into the stories that it makes one wonder whether he thought of it before he wrote the books or whether he thought of those as he went along. Either way, it is undeniable that he was an extremely wise man whose books are rightly considered edifying as well as entertaining.

It is hard for me to sum up A Christmas Carol in a few themes that do justice to what this story means. When this book first hit the shelves in 1843, it apparently made Christmas the phenomenon it is today. In those times, people were suffering through a phase of not having enough resources to make a big production of Christmas. As such, a reminder that Christmas was about the spirit of giving and of cherishing one’s near and dear ones brought Christmas back in fashion. How can one even begin to summarize something as phenomenal as that? A Christmas Carol literally made Christmas and the story is as relevant today as it was then.

Every year, it reminds us the season is about keeping our Christmas cheer. It is about what we can give and not about what we have accumulated. It is about accepting our past being a part of us but not letting it define us. If we can keep the Christmas spirit in our heart through the year, our lives will be so much easier and better. So, this Christmas season, give this book a read, and if you lack the time, give our recap a read. Let yourself be reminded that no matter what is going on and no matter who you are, if you but take the time to be present and enjoy Christmas, all will be well in the New Year.

Let us know what you think about this review of A Christmas Carol and Sarina’s great review in the comments! No spoilers on this page, please!

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