Today’s ‘Christmas Week’ selection is a veritable Christmas institution. A Christmas Carol was founded on the emerging Victorian festive traditions of trees, cards and carols to become the literary embodiment of Christmas.
We all know the redemption-laden tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miser transformed into a much nicer bloke via some ghostly Yuletide visitations. This year in particular, it’s comforting to think that unsavoury characters are not beyond salvation (although some of the twats who have dominated 2016/wrecked the future are beyond hope, I’ll admit). However, for me, the power of A Christmas Carol is its communication of an important message about poverty and our attitudes towards those who suffer it, through a story that reaches the places an essay cannot. Sometimes, we (myself included) need a make-believe story to make us believe the harsh realities endured by others.
This edition includes photos of the very Londoners who were enduring the Poor Law changes that inspired Dickens to write his tale and, while poverty may have changed its face and no longer be about shoeless urchins wearing ragged clothes, one in four UK children today are affected by poverty, and factors such wage stagnation and the proliferation of zero hour contracts mean that two thirds of these children will be living in poverty despite at least one family member working. Something is broken when even work does not provide a route out of poverty. That to me is positively Dickensian. And Christmas, when we are besieged by gluttony and material excess, is both the time when we are most likely to forget ‘how the other half live’, and the time when we perhaps should remember them the most.
I don’t want to get all Bob Geldof on you during mince pie season, but let’s be reassured that there are ways we can make a difference to those less fortunate than ourselves, from boycotting businesses that exploit their workers (our taxes fund the welfare that funds the shortfall employers create in their employees’ wages, so we are lining their fat cat pockets in more ways than one) to acknowledging a homeless person on the street if we cannot spare any change. If you are thinking of making a donation this Christmas, my cousin Tilly of The Island fame has taken a break from slaughtering wild turkeys (what would Benjamin say?) to be involved in an initiative to help the London homeless through a harsh winter. Here’s more about the work of Todos if you’re interested. No pressure. I ain’t no preacher.
Now to cheer us all up, here’s my favourite Christmas Carol(ish) homage: Ebeneezer Goode. Tuuuuune! Never mind The Muppet Christmas Carol – check out this lot. Naughty, naughty, VERY naughty!!