Thursday, December 18, 2014

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: The Annual Obsession

By Sierra Donovan

It's not surprising that my husband proposed to me just after midnight December 25th, right after watching “A Christmas Carol” on home video.

The classic Dickens story has been a presence in my life for a long time. I first read the story when I was 10 years old – about the same age my husband was when he did. Don't get me wrong; we have plenty of other things in common. Most of them are probably even less hip. We both love classic horror films, country music and the rock 'n' roll of the 1960s.

But the Christmas season in general, and “A Christmas Carol” in particular, ranks high on the list of our favorite things. Based on a very quick count, we have at least nine film versions of the story, and we try to watch as many of them as we can work in every holiday season. (A sad by-product of this is that our children, now 19 and 15, have been known to shudder at the very mention of the tale. But they'll come around.)

A sane person might ask, why the obsession? What makes us relive multiple viewings of Scrooge's past, present and future every year? (Not back-to-back. That would be silly.) But a better question might be, what's made this story so enduring? My husband and I aren't the only “Christmas Carol” geeks, and Dickens' work has held up some 171 years now.

The trite, but probably correct, answer is that “A Christmas Carol” is a tale of redemption, and that's something that resonates with the human race. We love to see Scrooge's transformation and the stages that take him there. And it's not too big a stretch to believe it's because that's something we all want for ourselves – a chance to be kinder, gentler, better people. To get our priorities straight and remember what's really important.

The Christmas season is really a microcosm of the best things in life: God, family and caring for others. We celebrate with some of the things we love most: food, music, decorating, shopping. But those external celebrations are also where it can start going haywire for many of us. We get consumed by the need to get all those things done, and that's where the heart of Christmas can be lost.

This year, it's my hope that we all find and remember the joy of the season, and that we're able to share it with others. In the words of Scrooge's nephew Fred: “And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

And as a final word to the curious, I believe I've arrived at my personal top three film renditions: the 1984 George C. Scott made-for-TV-movie; the 1953 Alastair Sim film; and the 1938 MGM film starring Reginald Owen. If you'd like to weigh in with your own favorite(s), I'd love to hear it!


  1. Love the way you've made this classic part of your Christmas tradition, Sierra. You've analyzed it better than any teacher I ever had. As for my favorite film version, I guess I'll go with George C. Scott. But, for me, none of them quite measure up to the print version.

    1. There sure is something about words on the page, isn't there? No matter how many interpretations there are, we always have the story the way Mr. Dickens first gave it to us.

  2. Just saw it for the umpteenth time at the College. Nebraska Theater Troupe does it every year, and I see it every year. It begins my Christmas season.

    1. Live theater really can make things special, can't it?

      I saw a charming live production back when I was in high school (which undoubted fed my obsession). "Scrooge" had one of the most manically joyful transformations I've ever seen. For his curtain call, he came out running and clicking his heels in the air! :)

  3. Hi Sierra--
    What a sweet tradition you and your hubby share :-) My favorite version of this classic is actually a Hallmark Channel movie starring Carrie Fisher.
    The title: It's Christmas, Carol
    Watch the preview:

    1. Thanks for the heads-up! Maybe it's reassuring to know I haven't seen 'em all.... ;)

  4. Great post, Sierra!
    I have two favorites...George C. Scott and Scrouged with Bill Murray.
    Love your family tradition.

  5. I've seen A Christmas Carol more in live theater than on film, but no matter how or what version, it's obvious why it's a classic. How sweet that your hubby proposed at midnight on Christmas!

  6. Bizarre as this is going to sound, my favorite version is actually The Muppet's Christmas Carol, with Michael Caine as Scrooge.