Much shorter than his previous story (“A Christmas Tree”), the Christmas story that Charles Dickens published in 1951 is not so much a narrative as it is an exhortation, and from the essay “What Christmas is as we Grow Older” comes the often quoted line: “Nearer and closer to our hearts be the Christmas spirit, which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness and forbearance!”
Interestingly, the essay encourages readers to be thankful for all associations and memories, good and bad. He writes, “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.” Those who have had grudges or conflict throughout the year must bury that ill will at Christmas.
He asks if there is room for memories of the dead at Christmas time and then goes on to describe, in most beautiful prose, that
Of all days in the year, we will turn our faces towards that City upon Christmas Day, and from its silent hosts bring those we loved, among us. City of the Dead, in the blessed name wherein we are gathered together at this time, and in the Presence that is here among us according to the promise, we will receive, and not dismiss, thy people who are dear to us!
Following this is detailed description of those who are deceased, young and old, lost to sickness or war.
I think of all the negative moments, the stress and complaining that some of us adults do in the Christmas season, and I resolve to return to this essay and its beautiful embrace of life and death to set me on a better path of Christmas cheer.