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Sketches by Boz
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Sketches by Boz > Characters, 2: A Christmas Dinner

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message 1: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Our next sketch is titled "A Christmas Dinner" and was first published as "Christmas Festivities" in Bell's Life in London on December 27, 1835. I suspect Tristram of arranging the schedule so I would be the one summarizing this sketch, but I have no real proof. I have never in all my years of reading this gotten through it without crying, and today was no different, in fact there were tears in my eyes when I turned the page from our last sketch and saw the title. I will warn you that when I get talking about Christmas I never know where I am going to end up, but here we go. The beginning of this sketch I know by heart:

"Christmas time! That man must be a misanthrope indeed, in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused - in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened - by the recurrence of Christmas. There are people who will tell you that December is not to them what it used to be; that each succeeding Christmas has found some cherished hope, or happy prospect, of the year before, dimmed or passed away; that the present only serves to remind them of reduced circumstances and straitened incomes - of the feasts they once bestowed on hollow friends, and of the cold looks that meet them now, in adversity and misfortune. Never heed such dismal reminiscences. There are few men who have lived long enough in the world, who cannot call up such thoughts any day in the year. Then do not select the merriest of the three hundred and sixty-five for your doleful recollections, but draw your chair nearer the blazing fire - fill the glass and send round the song - and if your room be smaller than it was a dozen years ago, or if your glass be filled with reeking punch, instead of sparkling wine, put a good face on the matter, and empty it off-hand, and fill another, and troll off the old ditty you used to sing, and thank God it's no worse."

There are people who will tell you that December is not to them what it used to be; no kidding, I think almost everyone I know thinks that and almost everyone I know has felt the need to share that with me, along with any other negetive thought they have about Christmas. It reminds them of lost hope or prospect, of reduced incomes, of lost friendships or family who are gone. I have never had a Christmas that something hasn't gone wrong, or some extra stress hasn't been given to us at Christmas time. I had to have surgery twice in the same Christmas season one year, my mother died in December, my father -in-law died four days before Christmas, most of the stresses aren't as bad as that but every year there they are again. What does that have to do with Christmas? Nothing. It's Jesus birthday. What do lost hopes and forgotten friendships have to do with Christmas? Nothing, it's Jesus birthday. I am often asked when people come to see our decorations if I take donations to go toward the electric bill I suppose and although I have gotten used to the question, just the thought still bothers me, and I'm afraid I cry out "no" just as loud now as I did the first time I was asked, I was just so shocked at the idea of making money for the celebration of Jesus birthday.

"Who can be insensible to the outpourings of good feeling, and the honest interchange of affectionate attachment, which abound at this season of the year? A Christmas family-party! We know nothing in nature more delightful!.......The Christmas family-party that we mean, is not a mere assemblage of relations, got up at a week or two's notice, originating this year, having no family precedent in the last, and not likely to be repeated in the next. No. It is an annual gathering of all the accessible members of the family, young or old, rich or poor; and all the children look forward to it, for two months beforehand, in a fever of anticipation."

Yes, the Christmas family dinner when everyone shows up here hopefully close to noon although of course we always have the early people and the late people. The dinner when we eat turkey and filling/stuffing/whatever, which is my son's least favorite meal, my daughter's favorite meal, and everyone else falls somewhere in the middle. The dinner with the pumpkin pies that my husband makes and the turkey cake my sister always brings - shaped like a turkey that is. Then it's the presents mostly for the kids, and the singing, when we all gather in the living room and sing Christmas carols - badly - and never get through a song without having to stop because we are laughing so hard. How can anyone not like Christmas? I don't know. I do know however, that if there was going to be no family dinner, or seperate family party, if there would be no one stopping to see the decorations, or presents for the children, no Christmas cookies to make with the grandchildren (that's on Friday), no cards to send, none of it, when October next comes around my husband and I would go out to the garage and start carrying in totes and platforms and trees and garlands. It's Jesus birthday.

And now that I've said almost nothing about Dickens sketch I will end with this:

"And thus the evening passes, in a strain of rational good-will and cheerfulness, doing more to awaken the sympathies of every member of the party in behalf of his neighbour, and to perpetuate their good feeling during the ensuing year, than all the homilies that have ever been written, by all the Divines that have ever lived."

"Fill your glass again, with a merry face and contented heart. Our life on it, but your Christmas shall be merry, and your new year a happy one!"


message 2: by Peter (new)

Peter Yes, you are right Kim. Dickens says in this sketch that we need to "reflect upon our present blessings." How true.

My wife and I are taking our annual cruise in a couple of weeks. We will then fly from Ft. Lauderdale to Toronto on December 20th to visit with our children over Christmas. I will look out the plane window for the lights of your wonderful Christmas display that evening.


Tristram Shandy Kim,

you are speaking my mind better than I could have done it. Christmas is Jesus's birthday and probably the only time in the year when people really care for each other. One might argue that it is all hypocrisy because most of us are less caring for the remainder of the year but then you might counter by saying that every Christmas season brings out the best in most people, and that some days of people acting in a noble way during the year are better than no days of them doing so at all.

And no, I did not rig any cards to have you cover this Christmas Sketch - but maybe, it was the Ghost of Christmas Present who did it ;-)

Or Dickens's ghost, because is there any other writer who brought Christmas to life as Dickens did? I don't think so.


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