Excerpts from “What Christmas Is as We Grow Older”
By 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.
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!
. . .
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!
. . .
On this day, we shut out Nothing!
. . .
I heard parts of this essay long ago, as pieces of it were worked into the production of A Christmas Carol I performed in as a kid. The whole thing is worth a read, but these excerpts are my favorite bits, and sharing it here has become a small Christmas Eve tradition for me.
After a whirlwind fall spending time with old friends and new ones, I’m home for a lovely visit with my family. We’re about to go off to Christmas Eve mass at the church we’ve gone to since I was a baby, to sit with family friends I’ve known since childhood and sing Christmas carols and watch adorable children put on the Nativity pageant — complete with a visit from Santa Claus. Despite what the thermometer is telling us, Christmas Eve is here.
I’ve always loved Christmas Eve just a little more than Christmas Day, for the candles and music at mass, the Christmas lights my family always drives around to look for after church, and the sense that something special is about to happen. It changes a little each year as I grow older, but the joy of time spent together celebrating life and light is still there.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, as the year ends I hope that you too find that your circle has expanded, that old and new aspirations have a place by your hearth, and that the new year brings hope and peace.
And as the Muppets say: