Christmas was (almost) dead to begin with. That is until Mr Dickens came along in 1843 with his tale of good will and redemption (and ghosts) that just happened to be set around December 25th.
A Christmas Carol (I am sure you are aware) centres around one Mr Ebenezer Scrooge, a shrewd Victorian financier whose only love and comfort in life is money. He begins the story as an old, embittered man and wins himself no friends with his callous attitude towards the poor and needy. That is, until he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, who warns him to be more caring and charitable to those around him, otherwise he will be doomed to wander the earth after death, weighed down by chains forged by the misdeeds of his life.
Scrooge is then visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet To Come, and over the course of the novel he is confronted with the reality of the life he has made for himself.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how the story unfolds, but did you know that when A Christmas Carol was first published, it single-handedly revived the festival overnight, and helped shape it into what we know and love today?
Well, I say “single-handedly,” but actually Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had rather a lot to do with that as well, together with the German traditions that Albert brought with him (including Christmas Trees).
My point is that without A Christmas Carol, Christmas would be celebrated a lot differently than it is now. Make of that what you will.
Certainly, my own memories of Christmases Past would be very different without it, or a version of it at least.
For a very long time (pretty much since it was released on VHS – yes, I remember that far back!) The Muppet Christmas Carol has been a part of my Christmas celebrations. It is, without a doubt, my favourite Christmas film. Ever.
It is one of those films that I can quote wholesale (as can my entire family), and it never fails to put a smile on my face. I have watched it every year for as long as I can remember, and intend to keep doing so for many years to come.
Believe it or not, the Muppets’ version is actually remarkably close to the original book. I read A Christmas Carol for the first time this year and was amazed at just how faithful to the book it is as a film; to the point at which I could hear Gonzo as the narrator in my head (I naturally added Rizzo’s commentary in there as well) and read each of Scrooge’s lines with Michael Caine’s voice in mind.
As the book is very short (just under 29,000 words), it lends itself well to adaptation on screen. This should not come as a surprise, given that it has been adapted more times than most people care to count. But what I like most about The Muppet Christmas Carol is that, for a family film, it does not shy away from some of the darker aspects of the original – namely the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.
I remember being terrified of him as a child (something about the too-long arms and large, grey hands is just plain unnerving). And I remember repeatedly shedding a tear when Belle leaves Scrooge and when Tiny Tim dies in the vision of the future Christmas.
Of course, what helps to soften some of these moments is the reaction given by Gonzo and Rizzo as the film’s narrator and chorus respectively. They offer an immediate response to what is happening that helps to re-assure younger audiences and serve as a reminder that this is, after all, a work of fiction.
If this film is not on your ‘To Watch’ list this year, then it should be! It will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you sing along. Who could ask for more in a Christmas film?
All that is left for me to say is Happy Christmas to all! I won’t be posting next week as I will probably be too busy losing rounds of Phase 10 with my family, so Happy New Year as well. See you in January!
And so as Tiny Tim observed…