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Christmas Story Share

What Christmas Is As We Grow Older

by Charles Dickens

Dickens wrote this Christmas vignette for his twopenny magazine, Household Words in 1851. He published reader interest stories and essays on a weekly basis between 1850-1859, but his Christmas stories were always a highlight. In this story, Dickens intertwines his disillusionment with his return to a youthful optimism– it’s really quite personal and heartfelt, coming after the deaths of his father and daughter. I think we benefit from its plea to stop complaining, accept and understand the past, and savor Christmas as a time for reconciliation.

An illustration for the story What Christmas Is As We Grow Older by the author Charles Dickens

Time was, with most of us, when Christmas Day encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and every one around the Christmas fire; and made the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete.

Time came, perhaps, all so soon, when our thoughts over-leaped that narrow boundary; when there was some one (very dear, we thought then, very beautiful, and absolutely perfect) wanting to the fulness of our happiness; when we were wanting too (or we thought so, which did just as well) at the Christmas hearth by which that some one sat; and when we intertwined with every wreath and garland of our life that some one’s name.

That was the time for the bright visionary Christmases which have long arisen from us to show faintly, after summer rain, in the palest edges of the rainbow! That was the time for the beatified enjoyment of the things that were to be, and never were, and yet the things that were so real in our resolute hope that it would be hard to say, now, what realities achieved since, have been stronger!

What! Did that Christmas never really come when we and the priceless pearl who was our young choice were received, after the happiest of totally impossible marriages, by the two united families previously at daggers–drawn on our account? When brothers and sisters-in-law who had always been rather cool to us before our relationship was effected, perfectly doted on us, and when fathers and mothers overwhelmed us with unlimited incomes? Was that Christmas dinner never really eaten, after which we arose, and generously and eloquently rendered honour to our late rival, present in the company, then and there exchanging friendship and forgiveness, and founding an attachment, not to be surpassed in Greek or Roman story, which subsisted until death? Has that same rival long ceased to care for that same priceless pearl, and married for money, and become usurious? Above all, do we really know, now, that we should probably have been miserable if we had won and worn the pearl, and that we are better without her?

That Christmas when we had recently achieved so much fame; when we had been carried in triumph somewhere, for doing something great and good; when we had won an honoured and ennobled name, and arrived and were received at home in a shower of tears of joy; is it possible that THAT Christmas has not come yet?

And is our life here, at the best, so constituted that, pausing as we advance at such a noticeable mile-stone in the track as this great birthday, we look back on the things that never were, as naturally and full as gravely as on the things that have been and are gone, or have been and still are? If it be so, and so it seems to be, must we come to the conclusion that life is little better than a dream, and little worth the loves and strivings that we crowd into it?

No! Far be such miscalled philosophy from us, dear Reader, on Christmas Day! Nearer and closer to our hearts be the Christmas spirit, which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness and forbearance! It is in the last virtues especially, that we are, or should be, strengthened by the unaccomplished visions of our youth; for, who shall say that they are not our teachers to deal gently even with the impalpable nothings of the earth!

Therefore, as we grow older, let us be more thankful that the circle of our Christmas associations and of the lessons that they bring, expands! Let us welcome every one of them, and summon them to take their places by the Christmas hearth.

Welcome, old aspirations, glittering creatures of an ardent fancy, to your shelter underneath the holly! We know you, and have not outlived you yet. Welcome, old projects and old loves, however fleeting, to your nooks among the steadier lights that burn around us. Welcome, all that was ever real to our hearts; and for the earnestness that made you real, thanks to Heaven! Do we build no Christmas castles in the clouds now? Let our thoughts, fluttering like butterflies among these flowers of children, bear witness! Before this boy, there stretches out a Future, brighter than we ever looked on in our old romantic time, but bright with honour and with truth. Around this little head on which the sunny curls lie heaped, the graces sport, as prettily, as airily, as when there was no scythe within the reach of Time to shear away the curls of our first-love. Upon another girl’s face near it–placider but smiling bright–a quiet and contented little face, we see Home fairly written. Shining from the word, as rays shine from a star, we see how, when our graves are old, other hopes than ours are young, other hearts than ours are moved; how other ways are smoothed; how other happiness blooms, ripens, and decays–no, not decays, for other homes and other bands of children, not yet in being nor for ages yet to be, arise, and bloom and ripen to the end of all!

Welcome, everything! Welcome, alike what has been, and what never was, and what we hope may be, to your shelter underneath the holly, to your places round the Christmas fire, where what is sits open-hearted! In yonder shadow, do we see obtruding furtively upon the blaze, an enemy’s face? By Christmas Day we do forgive him! If the injury he has done us may admit of such companionship, let him come here and take his place. If otherwise, unhappily, let him go hence, assured that we will never injure nor accuse him.

On this day we shut out Nothing!

“Pause,” says a low voice. “Nothing? Think!”

“On Christmas Day, we will shut out from our fireside, Nothing.”

“Not the shadow of a vast City where the withered leaves are lying deep?” the voice replies. “Not the shadow that darkens the whole globe? Not the shadow of the City of the Dead?”

Not even that. Of all days in the year, we will turn our faces towards that City upon Christmas Day, and from its silent hosts bring those we loved, among us. City of the Dead, in the blessed name wherein we are gathered together at this time, and in the Presence that is here among us according to the promise, we will receive, and not dismiss, thy people who are dear to us!

Yes. We can look upon these children angels that alight, so solemnly, so beautifully among the living children by the fire, and can bear to think how they departed from us. Entertaining angels unawares, as the Patriarchs did, the playful children are unconscious of their guests; but we can see them–can see a radiant arm around one favourite neck, as if there were a tempting of that child away. Among the celestial figures there is one, a poor misshapen boy on earth, of a glorious beauty now, of whom his dying mother said it grieved her much to leave him here, alone, for so many years as it was likely would elapse before he came to her– being such a little child. But he went quickly, and was laid upon her breast, and in her hand she leads him.

There was a gallant boy, who fell, far away, upon a burning sand beneath a burning sun, and said, “Tell them at home, with my last love, how much I could have wished to kiss them once, but that I died contented and had done my duty!” Or there was another, over whom they read the words, “Therefore we commit his body to the deep,” and so consigned him to the lonely ocean and sailed on. Or there was another, who lay down to his rest in the dark shadow of great forests, and, on earth, awoke no more. O shall they not, from sand and sea and forest, be brought home at such a time!

There was a dear girl–almost a woman–never to be one–who made a mourning Christmas in a house of joy, and went her trackless way to the silent City. Do we recollect her, worn out, faintly whispering what could not be heard, and falling into that last sleep for weariness? O look upon her now! O look upon her beauty, her serenity, her changeless youth, her happiness! The daughter of Jairus was recalled to life, to die; but she, more blest, has heard the same voice, saying unto her, “Arise for ever!”

We had a friend who was our friend from early days, with whom we often pictured the changes that were to come upon our lives, and merrily imagined how we would speak, and walk, and think, and talk, when we came to be old. His destined habitation in the City of the Dead received him in his prime. Shall he be shut out from our Christmas remembrance? Would his love have so excluded us? Lost friend, lost child, lost parent, sister, brother, husband, wife, we will not so discard you! You shall hold your cherished places in our Christmas hearts, and by our Christmas fires; and in the season of immortal hope, and on the birthday of immortal mercy, we will shut out Nothing!

The winter sun goes down over town and village; on the sea it makes a rosy path, as if the Sacred tread were fresh upon the water. A few more moments, and it sinks, and night comes on, and lights begin to sparkle in the prospect. On the hill-side beyond the shapelessly-diffused town, and in the quiet keeping of the trees that gird the village-steeple, remembrances are cut in stone, planted in common flowers, growing in grass, entwined with lowly brambles around many a mound of earth. In town and village, there are doors and windows closed against the weather, there are flaming logs heaped high, there are joyful faces, there is healthy music of voices. Be all ungentleness and harm excluded from the temples of the Household Gods, but be those remembrances admitted with tender encouragement! They are of the time and all its comforting and peaceful reassurances; and of the history that re-united even upon earth the living and the dead; and of the broad beneficence and goodness that too many men have tried to tear to narrow shreds.

What Christmas Is As We Grow Older was featured as The Short Story of the Day on Mon, Dec 11, 2017

Thank you for reading 🙂


“Blue” Christmas

Let’s move ahead to one of Blue’s Christmas’…

christmas tree with baubles

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

As always there was a big decorating frenzy for Christmas, Blue was helping unpack things from a box or two while her mom was setting the decorations out for immediate display. Every Christmas it was almost like “clock work” how the holiday preparation began. Blue’s mom usually did things herself but this year, was different. Blue was actually trusted to unpack Christmas decorations from many years of collections and was intrusted to do it without the “eagle eye” bearing down upon her every move. Her mom was almost religious about how she set everything up and Blue had watched her so many years doing it that she knew where things went.

There was the ceramic decorations, Frosty, Santa, Angels, and more that were placed on the console radio which could hold them all in fine array. There was the snow fluff that needed to go underneath each one, as if to give the impression that they were in snow. Of course, the Angel had to overlook the manager scene and figurines. There was things that were gifted from friends and family that got their turn at being displayed. They were arranged in a manner fitting to their themes. Blue’s mom was very particular about how things needed to be displayed.

Blue just loved staring at the decorations, to her they were a thing for imagination and pretend. Sometimes she visualized in her head how it would be to be as small as the figurines and all were. She imagined how it must have been like to be baby Jesus and his mother and father back in the manager. There was absolutely no limit to her expandable imagination.

Blue loved helping decorate the tree. Her favorite thing about the tree was the shiny mirror like balls that her mom placed on the tree. With the background of the flickering lights, each ball mirrored the images perfectly and the took on a whole new look. The flickering Christmas lights were set to a certain pattern or rhythm and they could flicker fast or slow. Her favorite was the slow changing colored lights. Blue would lay on the floor when the tree was finished and just stare upward through the tree with all of it’s decorations and let her imagination soar. It was certainly fun for her, and a much-needed distraction from her everyday life.

Sometimes in one’s life we all need a break from everyday things, and Christmas was that and more for Blue.

In thinking back to other Christmas’ Blue loved this time of year so much. It was one of the times she actually felt like her family recognized her wants and wishes. St least for gifts, at least, too bad that was not the case 364 days of the year. For Christmas Blue actually got to tell what she wanted. Who wouldn’t love that? Each year the Sears and Roebuck Catalog came out and in it was lots of toys, clothes, and more. This was the catalog that Blue went through, circling her requests for Christmas. Almost as predictable as having shoes to wear, she would see what she asked for up under the Christmas tree. It felt good to know that she had been included and that she was thought of enough to get what she really wished for.

Wished for? Hmm, she certainly got presents and stuff, but not what was most important in her heart. As often as a person’s heart would beat, that was how much Blue wanted her wish of having not to be scared in her own house, Her father was not on her Christmas wish but he was certainly part of what scared her. He had his own agenda and not even Christmas was a detriment to how he treated her, For Blue not even Christmas was enough to fight off some demons. 

Blue loved waking up early on a Christmas morning and finding her stockings full of nuts, and fingernail polish along with treats and candy of all kinds. Often Blue thought her stocking was the most special gift of Christmas. It was always loaded with goodies and almost overflowed onto the fireplace mantle. It would take Blue a month or so to even empty out her stocking. She had so much packed into it. It was the best.  Her brother often tried to sneak her chocolate from her pile of stocking goodies, but she learnt to keep them hidden. Her brother was a sneaky sort of chocolate monster. He loved it. She did too.

On Christmas day it was usually a laid back kind of day. Lunch was usually an after thought, because Blue and her brother nibbled the stuff from their stockings. Usually there was an early supper and her mom had family over to eat. Blue really loved her mom’s cooking,  There was the potato salad her mom always made, the turkey that filled the whole house with a tantalizing aroma and the stuffing that was placed inside the turkey to soak up the juices from the cooking. It smelt heavenly there in her house , on Christmas day. The ultimate thing was when there was left over turkey for the next day, with which Blue loved a mayo and turkey , with salt, sandwich. Yum!

Her mom was the best cook, if you were to ask Blue. There was nothing her mom fixed that wasn’t delicious, Blue only could hope to be such a good cook when she grew up. When Blue was little, her mom read the Christmas Story, the biblical one, each Christmas Eve. It told of a baby born in a manager because there was no room for him and his parents in the inn. It gave Blue hope in a weird sort of way. She knew if Jesus could survive being mistreated from birth, certainly she could survive her home predicament. She always took the meaning of Christmas and tried to pull hope from it. Each Christmas just reminded her to never give up.

…and never give up, was what Blue did.

Although, she really felt like it, she would not. She clung to the hope of better things and that gave her the courage to live. If Blue really got her Christmas wish, it would be that she never had to hide, in her own home, from someone that was suppose to love her. That was not the case though, she was constantly trying to sort through the unnatural feelings that her father had for her, She took his actions to mean that she was nothing more than amusement for his own self.

To be continued…




Thank you for reading 🙂