Every year on Christmas Eve, my family would gather our snacks and settle into the living room. We’d pile pillows and blankets on the couches and snuggle in tight. Then, at approximately 8:00pm, my father would shut off the lights.
Cast in complete darkness, the movie would begin. Heavy brass in the intro – haunting noise. A slightly shaky camera panning over books, all in black and white. A hand reaches out and retrieves a single novel from the shelf: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
For as long as I can remember, it has been the tradition in my family’s house to end Christmas Eve with buckets of popcorn and glasses of soda (special for only the holidays in our house) and watch the 1951 release of A Christmas Carol, starring Alastair Sim. Just that one. No joyous muppets on their A Muppet’s Christmas Carol. Not even a proper one in color. My father liked the 1951 version because he felt that it was the last filming of the story that still captured a Christian heart at the story, instead of a merely humanitarian one.
As a child, I found the black and white, Alastair Sim, and the ghosts all a little terrifying. But I’ve talked before about my feelings on ghosts.
As an adult, I still watch this version from time to time, largely out of nostalgia. But over the years, it hasn’t been Christmas without A Christmas Carol.
What started in my world as a film tradition on Christmas Eve expanded as I was in college. My sophomore year, I had the opportunity to join a local theatre troupe and was cast in their production of A Christmas Carol. It wasn’t a major role by any means and looking back I’m completely flabbergasted as to how I managed to get into the troupe at all. It was filled with old friends and people with connections in the theatre world. As much as I love acting I was never really a part of that group… but I loved doing A Christmas Carol.
The first year was simple. The troupe was small. I played Ebenezer’s love interest, Isabelle, who you may know from the fact she never makes it into any of the films.
At the time, I was dating another theatre enthusiast (much more enthusiastic than me – we met through improv, which was more my forte). He played Young Ebenezer throughout the show, and so we were a perfect pair. At the time.
I really loved the role of Isabelle. She was sweet, kind, and gentle. Selfless. And Bryan loved everything about acting, so he was a happy camper in all ways. I was invited to the troupe and he came to a rehearsal with me and managed to grab himself two roles. He’s still with the troupe today, I think he’s one of the board members? It sort of fell apart and there’s only 4-5 actors that do a regular rotation. I don’t act with them anymore, largely because I feel that chapter in my life has ended.
A little off topic from A Christmas Carol as a story, but do you want to watch a relationship die in pictures? It’s a bit ironic, because the big scene with Isabelle and Ebenezer is when she cuts herself loose from his poisonous influence… and well, take a look.
One of the keenest ways (in amateur theatre, when the actors hide their emotions less successfully) to see the relationship between two actors is to watch their eyes and body language. In 2008, I had decided I wanted to end this relationship but felt trapped. At the time of 2011’s performance, we had broken up and I was dating my now husband. Look at my eyes – I refuse to look at him. My expression goes from sadness and regret, to indifference, to a frustrated impatience. And the placement of his hand… in the first, respectful; in the second, controlling; in the third, he doesn’t even want to touch me.
That was such a toxic relationship. *sigh* Bad memories.
Despite my memories of this show being tainted by my ex, I really loved performing in it. It was an annual event and by the fourth year, it was an eight performance, consistently sold out show. All the same people came back year after year. After the second year, it became a musical. It was such an incredible experience and I wouldn’t go back in time and trade it for anything. Throughout my college years, A Christmas Carol was the big thing I looked forward to every December.
Now, I’m older. I don’t act. I don’t have time – never really had the talent. I don’t go to my parents’ house and watch A Christmas Carol because I have my own new traditions. But it has been such a big part of my Christmases for as long as I can remember, and as such, I really try to make an effort to read or listen to A Christmas Carol every December. It is a haunting tale with an amazing underlying story of love and compassion. If you are not familiar with it, there are so many film and theatrical renditions (especially this time of year!) and I cannot recommend enough reading the book or seeing an adaptation.
This week’s Book Blogger Hop asks:
What is your favourite Christmas-themed read?
Since I don’t read a lot of seasonal fare, A Christmas Carol is probably the only one at all. I read The Chimes back in January which is wintery as well, but it wasn’t to my liking.