It’s a typical frantic, modern Christmas season, full of parties and errands and things to buy. Televisions are filled with pictures of mountains of presents under beautifully decorated trees, along with exhortations to buy more things. It was simpler for the Cratchits.
You probably remember the Cratchits from Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Poor Bob Cratchit worked for the man who has given his name to anti-revelry, no-joy, cheapness: Ebenezer Scrooge.
Cratchit didn’t make much working for Scrooge, about $100 in current value a week. For that princely sum he copied letters in a frigid and “dismal little cell.” He worked long days, six days a week. There were no benefits.
With his $100, Cratchit supported a family with six children, including the invalid Tiny Tim. Things were especially hard at Christmas, when he had to beg for the day off without pay.
The Cratchits planned on a Christmas dinner of goose. Turkey was for rich people. Even so they couldn’t pay for it all at once. Mrs. Cratchit made weekly payments into a “goose fund” to assure that they would have a bird for their Christmas dinner.
What I’ve always liked about the story is the way Dickens portrayed that dinner. Dickens had been poor and he didn’t romanticize the poverty.
Instead, he showed a family enjoying each other and the day. There would be time for work and old man Scrooge soon enough. They knew that Tiny Tim would probably die soon. But there was still joy and refreshment to be had.
It’s not a bad model for us today. For a day, surely, we can set aside our smartphones and turn away from the worries, maybe even turn off the news. For a day, we can enjoy some time away from stress and bathe in the joy of being with people we love and who love us.
For the Cratchits, it turned out well. A prize Christmas turkey was delivered by an anonymous person who would turn out to be Scrooge 2.0. And the next day, Bob Cratchit would get a raise.
That’s how it happened for the Cratchits. You may not get the gift of a turkey, a raise, or a transformed boss. But you can enjoy Christmas. I hope you do. May God bless us! Every one.