By ELLEN MARTIN
The past is always present at Christmas and Charles Dickens in "A Christmas Carol" was aware of human nature when he set the stage for his story. Tiny Tim, he knew, would capture the hearts of even the most hardened since people have a soft spot for the helpless and little beings at Christmas. As Meta S. Schlundt wrote "Bless, O God, the little things...He, too, was just a little one at Christmastide."
Many may recall a Christmas past, in the hardest of times, that was celebrated. This was Dickens plight, in 1843, when he decided to write a little story about Christmas to help pay his debts. The "little carol" excited him from its beginning.
It is written he never left home before the owls were out and then he would walk the black streets of London, 15-20 miles a night, for inspiration. Out of his rough times he gave the world a lasting gift, "A Christmas Carol," which has been translated in Gaelic, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and the list goes on, to soften hearts and be a reminder that from a lowly cattle stall God's greatest gift was given.
It was a difficult time for Joseph and Mary, who had taken refuge from Galilee, and as George Cornell wrote "The mother weak from her labor sprinkled the infant with salt to toughen his skin, wrapped him with strips of cloth to brace his tiny body, and laid him in a chiseled out pit in the rock floor used as a feed trough." It is written the first stable scene with manger, ox and ass was granted by St. Francis of Assissi around 1200 A.D. and became a part of Christmas images.
Dicken's Bob Crachit's family, too, knew hard times and a family's need for togetherness which had a social impact for those in need. A favorite toast in Dicken's time was "To families, good food, good friends...plum pudding, fruitcakes, mince pies...a whole suckling pig roasted on a spit..candy, cakes and wines for Christmas we will fix." The Puritans banned plum pudding, laced with brandy, until 1681, for fear of damnation.
There are legends from Odin in Norway, St. Nicholas in Turkey, Santiklas in Rhineland and many others. In Alsace it was declared "no person should have for Christmas more than one bush of more than eight shoe lengths." It is written Mark Carr, New York, began selling green trees in 1851, and Ralph Morris strung electric light bulbs on the family tree in 1895. Many of us probably recall our family's first string of lights placed on a Christmas tree.
How grateful we should be that the spirit of Christmas has survived the Stalins, Hitlers, Mussalinis and the many now who are guilty of injustice to humankind. What would we do if we lost the spirit of Christmas? May we never take it for granted, but always remember the words of Dickens in his "A Christmas Carol," spoken by Tiny Tim - "God bless us everyone."