Thursday, December 25, 2014

There's something about Christmas


Aaah…the cool breeze, falling temperatures, steady coffee, and in my case, a running nose and sore throat: all signs that the current month is December. I like the weather cool, but its not the same the other way round. And December is probably my favourite month of the year. I used to go to a Christian missionary school, so we used to celebrate each and every Christian holiday on the calendar, specially Christmas. Initially I used to hate the festivities , being a Hindu myself, I could not relate to many traditions Christians followed. But I gradually realized that Christmas is not just about the Prayers and Churches and the fasting, the endless Bible reading. The spirit of Christmas was about caring , and sharing, and some enjoying a few comforts of life with near and dear ones. Nowhere can this spirit be better seen , than in Charles Dickens' legacy novel: A Christmas Carol.

Funny, this play has a special place in all of my Christmas holidays, I have read, watched or at least thought of this little story every Christmas. Every annual day, a portion of this story, or its entirety would be chosen for a play. The most popular section is without a doubt the part were the second ghost, the Ghost of Christmas present, shows Uncle Scrooge the Christmas dinner at the Cratchit house. Bob Cratchit, his employee, is very poor, draws an even poorer salary from Scrooge, but has a large family to feed. The Cratchit family comprises of him, his wife, three daughters, three sons, the youngest of which , Tiny Tim, is crippled. The Cratchits live a measerly life, and Christmas is probably the only time of the year they indulge, and this is the time the Ghost and Scrooge decides to visit them.

Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course — and in truth it was something very like it in that house. Mrs Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah! -

There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs Cratchit left the room alone — too nervous to bear witness — to take the pudding up and bring it in.

Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out! Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back-yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose — and supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed.

Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered — flushed by smiling proudly — with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit’s elbow stood the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed:

‘A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!’ Which all the family re-echoed.

‘God bless us every one!’ said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

The scene described is so vivid ! You can actually the whole family sitting down together for dinner together, helping each other, passing around small utensils, and slurping up every last morsel, with a cosy fire going in the fireplace nearby. The whole family shares what little they can afford, and makes sure everyone is properly fed and cared for. What more does one want ?




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