‘Tis the season for glowing, twinkling lights making rainbows across snowy banks as smooth as the finest fondant. ‘Tis the time to hear Mariah nail every note in all I want for Christmas is you and Bing croon I’ll be home where the lovelight gleams.
Fifth Avenue still dazzles and dizzies with satins and silks on display. At Rockefeller Center, children grow woozy trying to see the top of the mighty tree while below, ice skaters spin dreams of steaming cocoa to warm their core.
This is the inescapable season of joy and brotherhood, of Kwanzaa gratitude, Hanukkah miracles, and Christmas hope. ‘Tis the season to celebrate the promise of us, and authors have done so, offering fare to inspire the best in us.
One of the earliest tales that made me weep as a child is Han Christian Anderson’s “The Little Match Girl,” a story about deprivation, hunger, loneliness, and the smallest spark of love to light the way. I warn you, the tale is bleak. Reading it again, I cried again. I confess I cry every time I think of any child so forlorn, just on the other side of plenty and joy, never to be welcomed home without having sold her matches, no stranger’s door open to her either. The only hope for her new year is in an afterlife, warmer and more loving than this one.
Scrooge faces a similar cold, but it is one of his own making. He stands outside the warm circle of family and love because he has made money his lover and god. Like Beatrice beatifically blessing Dante, Marley intervenes to save poor Ebenezer, and in doing so, saves Tiny Tim and all of Bob Cratchit’s family from despair, loss, and want. Old Scrooge’s unspoken prayers are answered, and he lives in and for love.
Photo of a Holiday Treasure at Our House 2013. Photo by Al Griffin
Hollywood’s Christmas fare often employs both characters: a child suffering and a man in need of redemption. George Seaton used them in Miracle on 34th Street. Though well cared for with a home to call her own, little Susan Walker and her mother, Doris Walker, stand outside the warm Christmas circle wherein Santa delivers every dream and wish never uttered aloud. Doris was bruised by love and teaches her daughter to hold illusion, fairy tales, and all things fanciful in contempt. Kris Kringle and John Walker take the part of Beatrice and Marley. Their perfect faith and love save the girls from themselves, teaching them to believe in goodness, mercy, and magic.
Would that the little match girl had an angel or a Santa to save her. May no child endure this inescapable, ubiquitous season of hope without rescue. May every child receive the gift of love and a little something to keep her warm every other night of the coming year.
Read “The Little Match Girl.” Then when your eyes are clear again, read A Christmas Carol. Breathe deeply of redemption and love, then brew a strong cup of tea and settle in to watch Miracle on 34th Street. When your smiles fade, spend 130 minutes with It’s a Wonderful Life. Carry those minutes into action. Give to others freely and generously as the people of Bedford Falls gave to George Bailey.
Write a journal entry about It’s a Wonderful Life. How does it meet the Christmas archetypal standards of a character both in need of and redeemed by love?