Christmas Eve as We Grow Older

First posted December 24, 2013.

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.

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:

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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There may be Christmas weather headed our way today, here in NYC. I guess the weather gods got the month wrong – it’s still November, guys! I’ve seen a lot of different forecasts of how much snow the area may or may not get (and since I’m writing this Tuesday night, it all may have changed by the time this goes up), but I think we can agree we’re glad we don’t live in Buffalo. Sorry, Buffalo friends – I love snow, but last week sounded hellish.

But despite the precipitation, it’s Thanksgiving we’re celebrating this week. Just like last year, I have a lot to be thankful for – family, friends, a great job, a great apartment, good health, and a year that included both cross country and transatlantic travel. In the wider world it has often been a difficult year – this week is no exception – and it makes me that much more grateful for my own blessings.

The older I get, the faster the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s seems to go. Lots of people complain when holiday decorations start as early as the day after Halloween, but I like it. When I was a kid and in a production of A Christmas Carol for several years, our rehearsals always started right around Halloween. That was the beginning of the season for me.  Now I try to stretch it in little ways, like putting my Christmas tree up early so I get to enjoy it for longer, and playing lots of Christmas music.

When I’m home with my family this weekend, we’ll go and pick out a tree, too, and decorate it. The decorations went up at my office this week. They’re all just trappings, but in the midst of the cold and ice that is about descend here for the next several months, the lights and the greenery and the candles remind me of warmth and family and friendship. I may roll my eyes about the inflatable snowmen and Santas I’m sure to see in my family’s suburban neighborhood, but it all comes from a place of gratitude and joy.

Well, probably.

I hope wherever you are that you’re able to spend time this week with people you care about! And I hope your planes and trains and buses and cars experience perfect travel conditions and no delays.

Happy Thanksgiving, and see you in December!

 

Christmas Eve as We Grow Older

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.

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:

 

 

A Christmas Carol marathon at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

I have a lot of love for Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. If you’ve managed to escape me talking too much about my five-year run as a child star in a local production back home—well, feel free to ask me about it. I might even sing for you. But for now I’ll just say, for those five years the time between Halloween and Christmas was Christmas Carol season for me, and in the years since I’ve had to feed my love for the story other ways. Watching A Muppets’ Christmas Carol is one of my favorites (even if it leaves out my beloved Fan, Scrooge’s little sister), but last year I experienced a new favorite: the marathon reading of A Christmas Carol at Housing Works’s bookstore café.

There are so many things I love about this event. It’s at Housing Works’s bookstore café, which is a shop in SoHo where all of the merchandise has been donated, most of the staff is made up of volunteers, and all of their profits go to support the good work done by Housing Works. I’d love the bookstore just for its great space and selection of books, but its mission makes it even better. I’ve already explained my deep love of A Christmas Carol and anything resembling live theater, but I also just love hearing stories read aloud. This event brings all of these things together and has an awesome lineup of guest readers (writers and actors who are listed on the site, as well as some surprises).

Last year the entire café was filled with listeners. There’s a balcony that runs along three sides of the bookstore section of the shop, and the readers stood at one end overlooking the café. I found a window seat and settled in to stay for the whole thing, but people did come and go throughout. It also looks like everything is 10% off during the reading (and that whole weekend)—what a perfect way to shop for the best kind of present (books) and get in the Christmas spirit!

The marathon reading of A Christmas Carol at Housing Works’s bookstore café is on Saturday, December 14, at 1 p.m., but if you show up early you’ll get to hear some members of my choir sing carols beginning at 12 p.m. I sadly won’t be able to make it this year, but having gone last year and stayed all the way to the end of the reading, I highly recommend stopping by—the earlier, the better, to get a good comfy spot to listen from. Buy some hot chocolate and a cookie and settle in to hear one of the best Christmas stories ever written—you won’t be disappointed.

Anyone else have old favorite Christmas traditions that have seen new life lately?