It’s that time of year. People are dusting off their Christmas traditions and huddling inside away from the cold, dark days. In Iceland, there is a tradition of Jolabokaflod where people give each other gifts of books on Christmas Eve and then settle down to read them straight away. The more I hear about Iceland, the better it sounds.
Mind you, knowing how people are, those books may be read with different degrees of enthusiasm. I honestly think that there will be lots of happy people curled up with their favourite author, or a favourite genre, or even a completely new type of book that is perfect for opening up new ideas and thoughts in a wonderful and well-received way. I also suspect that there will be people muttering in corners, ‘My mother-in-law got me a book on Swedish Death Cleaning and I know exactly what she means by that!’
We don’t have that tradition in our family, mainly because my lovely husband has mostly audio books and I read a lot of books on a reading app, so we don’t usually buy physical books. Son reads in fits and starts and I just let him get on with it. Besides, he’s old enough to raid our bookshelves now when he feels like it. I also don’t want to force reading on him because he is overloaded with schoolwork and I would feel guilty trying to make him do anything more.
Speaking of schoolwork, son has been blessed by some amazing texts for his school syllabus, and one of them is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. We don’t have many Christmas traditions, but one of them is watching A Muppet Christmas Carol every year. We snuggle in, have the room nice and toasty with a scented candle, pile up snacks and drinks and enjoy. It’s years since I read the original, but I dipped in again the other night. I was pleasantly surprised by how much of the original work made it into the Muppet version. I have watched dozens of versions over the years, but I think that the Muppets get it the closest. Drop a comment if you agree or disagree. I’d love to hear what you think.
One thing that struck me was the original story, written in nineteenth century London, doesn’t have much to do with religion. It refers to Christianity, but that was natural for a nominally Christian writer in a nominally Christian country. However, it doesn’t really bother with theology. It talks about people, and a reminder that people are important. That it is worth cherishing the bonds of love and friendship. That it is a human duty to look out for others who cannot look out for themselves.
The language of the original is dated. Some of the expressions are unfamiliar to a modern reader. It’s a cracking story, though, and the dozens of films inspired by it (some a lot better than others) take up the sentiment. It seems that there is a deeply ingrained impulse to have a celebration at the darkest time of the year and to remember those who need a little help. I have watched A Muppet Christmas Carol so many times I can practically repeat the dialogue along with the film. I’m still looking forward to it though. It’s not a bad Christmas tradition.