Charles Dickens was born in 1812 to a working-class family, spent a few miserable months at age 12 working 10-hour days in a warehouse while his father was stuck in debtors’ prison, and then spent the rest of his life campaigning for child labor laws and writing scathing social commentary about the plight of the poor and working-class. Seems fair. Dickens first met with literary success around 1836, and spent the rest of his life writing almost non-stop until he died in 1870. Among his noteworthy works are Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and A Christmas Carol. Three guesses on which one we’re talking about today, and the first two don’t count. Now, a Christmas carol is an 1843 novella, that almost single-handedly solidified the modern concept of a Christmas celebration, and I can’t get over how overwhelmingly Christmas-y it is. It captures everything I love about the season while also being delightfully creepy. You know how Nightmare Before Christmas is in that awkward situation where you don’t know whether to watch it on Halloween or Christmas? A Christmas Carol has enough ghosts in it to skirt the edge of the same dilemma. It’s also had a truly ridiculous number of cinematic adaptations. And while I would have loved to use my personal favorite adaption, I also like having my YouTube channel and don’t particularly want to duel the multi-limbed eldritch abomination that is the House of Mouse in a battle of copyright law, just to use ten minutes of a Muppet Christmas Carol. So everyone say hello to 1951’s A Christmas Carol and just imagine it’s full of muppets and Michael Caine. A Christmas Carol kicks off by introducing our protagonist: Ebenezer Scrooge, an old, miserly, cold-hearted moneylender who’s laser-focused on two things, and two things only: getting money and keeping money. Scrooge runs a money-lending business that used to be a partnership with one Jacob Marley. But Marley died seven years ago and Scrooge’s been running the business solo ever since. But unluckily for Scrooge, it happens to be the holiday season. So everyone else is all wrapped up in cheer and tidings of comfort and joy and doing stuff like asking for paid time-off from work to be with their families. Ridiculous. Anyway, Scrooge’s nephew stops by to wish him a Merry Christmas and invite him to a nice dinner party with his family and friends, which Scrooge thinks is stupid, since what could they possibly be celebrating that’s more important than being rich? The nephew leaves, but Scrooge’s “brood-in-silence-for-the-rest-of-the-afternoon” plan continues to be foiled when two guys show up asking for donations for the poor. Scrooge suggests that the poor could always try going to prison, or one of the many nearby work houses, or, failing that, they could die and stop bugging him, so suffice to say, no donations are made that day. What a charmer. Scrooge’s sole employee, an impoverished but good-natured dude named Bob Cratchit, finishes the workday and skips off home to do lame Christmas-y things like being poor and having friends, while Scrooge has his customary dinner of gross, flavorless porridge and heads home, but stops short just short of the door because his otherwise innocuous door knocker has spontaneously transformed to look like his dead partner Marley. So that’s … ominous, and is just spooky enough to compel Scrooge to make sure every room in his giant, empty building is secure and dead-guy free. Scrooge locks himself in his room and gets ready for bed, but the ominous isn’t done yet, as every bell in the house starts ringing all at once, and when that dies down something starts clanking its way up the stairs. Scrooge’s day goes from bad to worse to straight-up Silent Hill, when the ghost of Jacob Marley sticks his head through the door and starts yelling at Scrooge for being a jerk. Scrooge insists this is just a nightmare caused by indigestion, which offends Marley so much that he rips off his head wrap and his jaw falls off. Wow, if I could do that, I would never lose an argument again. So ghost Marley says he’s here to warn Scrooge that his unchristmas-y ways are strictly unacceptable, and if he doesn’t shape up soon, he’s gonna end up just like Marley, wandering the world as a ghost, weighed down by a chain forged from highly symbolic representations of his cruelty and greed. Only the living can help and support each other; the dead who didn’t care enough about each other in life are doomed to bear witness to the suffering of humanity while having lost the power to help. Marley laments that he spent so much time focused on money that he never did any good, and now he can never do any good. But Marley tells Scrooge that he has one shot at redeeming himself and avoiding sharing this extremely depressing fate. He’s going to be visited by three extremely spooky ghosts, and they’re gonna try and make him a better person, and he’d better listen if he wants to avoid getting weighed down by supernatural bling for the rest of his afterlife. Marley books it out the window and joins a giant tornado of similarly miserable ghosts, because this wasn’t already spookifying enough, and Scrooge goes to bed somehow, but wakes up soon enough at the arrival of Spooky Ghost #1 ♫ Last Christmas – Wham! ♫ So, Spooky Ghost #1 is the Ghost of Christmas Past, and it sort of looks like this weird ageless child-thing with no discernable silhouette, and a fluctuating number of limbs. Also its head is on fire. Does this sound like a biblical angel to anyone else…? [*raises hand*]
Does this sound like a biblical angel to anyone else…? Just me? Just me?
Okay. Since this nightmare is really hard to make a visual for, most movies just make it an angelic lady or a spooky glowing child. So the Ghost of Christmas Past grabs Scrooge’s hand and floats him out the window and into the past where they get to experience some sweet flashbacks to Scrooge’s childhood and the Christmases he celebrated back then. Christmas #1 is actually a bit of a downer: All the other kids are going home for Christmas, But Mini Scrooge stays at the boarding school all alone, reading a book and feeling sorry for himself. The next Christmas reveals that this wasn’t by choice and it seems like his father had him shipped off to boarding school as a total dick move and didn’t let him come home. But this Christmas, his younger sister Fan shows up and tells him he’s coming home for the holidays, and their dad is so much less of a dick than he used to be, so this is gonna be great. The ghosts mildly observes that Fan had one kid, but died in childbirth, and Scrooge regrets being a dick to his nephew, the one remnant of his beloved, too-good-for-this-sinful-world baby sister. Christmas #3 jumps ahead to young-adult Scrooge, apprenticing under the super jolly and all-around swell, dude Fezziwig, who’s arranging a Christmas party for all his employees, as well as his entire extended family. The ghost suggests that Fezziwig doesn’t deserve any praise as a boss because he paid Scrooge so little but Scrooge tells him that Fezziwig, as his boss, had the power to make his life as miserable as he wanted but instead he was super nice and friendly, and made him happy and that’s what counted. Scrooge starts regretting his treatment of Bob Cratchit. Christmas #4 is a bit of a downer though, as it shows Scrooge’s girlfriend Belle breaking up with him because he’s way more in love with money than he is with her and he’s abandoned his nobler aspirations in favor of accumulating as much money as possible in order to wall himself off from the dangers of the world. Which is a pretty neat exploration of the fear that motivates his desire for wealth. He’s afraid of the world and he uses money to protect himself from it. [when Jakey M. got his sick chains]
Christmas #5 takes them to seven years ago but keeps the focus on Scrooge’s ex-girlfriend, now happily married and a mother of several. Belle’s husband comes home and mentions he spotted Scrooge sitting all alone in his counting-house while his partner Marley lay dying, and they contemplate how sad and alone Scrooge must be. Scrooge is unsurprisingly very upset at the thought that he could have been this guy, happily married to the love of his life with a million kids, and demands the spooky ghost take him home. The ghost is all, “Hey, man. Don’t shoot the messenger,” and Scrooge takes matters into his own hands by grabbing the Spooky Ghost’s Spooky Ghost hat™ and jamming it down over its glowing head. This is apparently the emergency shutoff for Spooky Ghosts and Scrooge finds himself back in his own bed and promptly goes to sleep. But he wakes up soon enough and you know what that means!
It’s time for Spooky Ghost #2! ♫ Have a Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives ♫ Scrooge sits in bed waiting for Spooky Ghost #2 to show up, but soon realizes he’s gonna need to be a bit more proactive. There’s a lot of light and noise coming from under his bedroom door, so he heads out and finds Spooky Ghost #2 has set up a huge and luxurious Christmas feast right in his dining room. The Spooky Ghost in question is the Ghost of Christmas Present. A giant carrying a torch and dressed all in holly and green. Scrooge knows the drill and tells the ghost to show him whatever it wants and Jolly Green tells him to grab his robe and hold on. As soon as he does, the room changes and suddenly they’re out on the street on Christmas morning. Everyone’s getting ready for the big day. And while the dingy street isn’t exactly festive, Everyone’s getting hyped for Christmas and the mood is overwhelmingly cheerful. ♫ Carol of the Bells ♫ The ghost takes them to Bob Cratchit’s house, which is tiny and impoverished but full of cheer, and Cratchit’s family is busily setting up for dinner. Bob returns home with his youngest son, Tiny Tim, but to Scrooge’s horror, he notices that Tim is weak and frail, and in general poor health, wearing a brace and using a tiny crutch to get around. But, Tiny Tim – too good for this sinful world – tells his mother that they went by the church and he hopes the churchgoers saw him and remember “Jesus is healing the crippled” miracle, and were thankful that they weren’t tiny and crippled, too. Scrooge reads the room and asks the ghost if Tiny Tim is gonna live, and the ghost is like, “Nope.” Then the ghost starts zipping around to show Scrooge Christmas being celebrated, despite happening in all kinds of desolate places like an isolated lighthouse in a tiny mining town, and then they zoom over to Scrooge’s nephew’s dinner party, which is super fun and Christmas-y and there’s dancing and stuff. They play a guessing game where the punchline is Uncle Scrooge, and then they drink a toast to Scrooge for being such a funny joke, which is… a little messed up. Speaking of messed up, Scrooge notices the ghost is visibly aging as the night goes on, and the ghost tells him he’ll be dead of old age when the night ends, which isn’t too surprising for an anthropomorphic personification of a single day. Anyway, the ghost drops the jolliness to give Scrooge a dire warning. There are two starving emaciated children clinging to his robe The ghost says they’re the greatest enemies of humanity: the boy is Ignorance and the girl is Want, with the implication being that the girl represents the deprivation of the basic means of survival, while the boy represents the deliberate ignorance of people, pretending not to notice the suffering of others. The ghost tells Scrooge to beware them both, especially the boy, who will personally be his downfall if he doesn’t shape up sharp-ish. Scrooge asks if there’s anyone who could help the children and the ghosts is all, “Well, they could always try going to prison, or one of the many workhouses, or maybe they could die and stop bothering you.” And with that sick callback burn, midnight strikes and the ghost vanishes, but there’s no time for naps this time, as Spooky Ghost Number Three arrives on the scene. Spooky Ghost No. 3 is the spookiest ghost yet: a silent hooded figure with no discernible features, other than a single outstretched hand, pointing Scrooge onward. They head into the mist and appear in the city, which is bustling with activity. Seems like somebody happened to die recently, and it’s all anyone’s talking about. The ghost points Scrooge to a crowd of merchants, who all seem to be pretty enthused that this mystery person finally kicked the bucket, and are debating whether or not to go to his funeral – maybe, if there’s free food. Scrooge is trying to figure out who this dead guy is, since he can’t think of anyone important to him who might have died. But, he figures once he finds himself in the future, it’ll clear up the confusion. I mean… technically, yeah. The ghost directs them to a pawn shop in the bad part of town, where three people are enthusiastically trying to sell off stuff they stole from the dead guy’s home – which is mostly little things like pens and silverware. But one lady actually stripped the bedding and curtains from the bed with the body in it. The others can’t decide if they should be disgusted or impressed. Scrooge is horrified, and tells the ghost he gets it: this poor, unmourned guy could be him – can they go now? But the ghost, probably frustrated that Scrooge still doesn’t get it – takes them into a dark bedroom with a sheet-covered body on the bed and directs Scrooge to uncover it, which Scrooge absolutely refuses to do because “Gross,” and also “Nope.” Scrooge begs the Ghost to show him anyone in town who feels anything at this man’s death, and the ghost thinks for a moment before taking them to a house, where a mother and her children are anxiously waiting. The father walks in, and tells them the man who holds their debts is dead, and they’ll be able to pay them off by the time the debts are transferred to somebody else. The family celebrates, and Scrooge is very disturbed that the only emotion elicited by this death was happiness. He asks the ghost to show him someone mourning a death tonight, and the ghost takes them to a familiar location: the Cratchit household, now very subdued, and mournful, and missing one Tiny Tim. Bob breaks down when he describes how beautiful the graveyard is But the family manages to rally somewhat, in honor of Tiny Tim’s too-good-for-this-sinful-world memory. Scrooge can’t handle this and demands the ghost tell him who the dead man is, and the ghost takes them walking straight to an overgrown grave with Ebenezer Scrooge written on it. Oh, what? Wow, that’s such a surprise – I can’t believe this. So Scrooge freaks out and asks if this is what will happen or what could happen, and is there any way to change the future? The ghost doesn’t answer, but does shake a little bit and Scrooge grabs the spirit’s hand – only to wake up in his own room. So Scrooge is super stoked to be awake, alive and ghost-free, and after running around like a madman on an adrenaline high for a few minutes, focuses, and realizes he doesn’t know what day it is. He yells out the window at a kid on the street who tells him it’s Christmas – duh – and Scrooge’s super stoked that he has a chance to make this Christmas awesome, after all. He pays the kid to go down to the shop and buy the biggest turkey they have, and have it delivered to the Cratchit house, and then Scrooge goes and tracks down those dudes looking for donations, and tells them to put him down for a stupid high amount. Then he heads to his nephew’s house and asks if the invite to Christmas dinner is still open, and spends the evening partying up a storm with his nephew’s wife and friends, and it’s a great time. The next day, Bob stumbles in and apologizes for his lateness, and Scrooge ominously tells him they’ll have to make sure it doesn’t happen again – by raising his salary, and doing everything possible to provide for his family! Scrooge becomes crazy generous and kind, and pretty much a second father to Bob’s kids, and Tiny Tim manages not to die and everything winds up happy and awesome. Yay Christmas. It’s in the singing of a street corner choir. It’s going home and getting warm by the fire It’s true wherever you find love. It feels like Christmas a cup of kindness that we share with another Sweet reunion with a friend or a brother in all the places you find love. It feels like Christmas Is the season of the heart a special time of caring the ways of love made clear It is the season of the spirit the message if we hear it Is make it lasts all year