It’s Christmas Day in the morning, and I wrote this a fortnight ago. Here’s wishing you a very happy Christmas. Or should I say, a Cool Yule?


In our family one of the Christmas traditions that has grown up over the years is as secular as mistletoe, log and tree – let alone as the fairy that gets impaled on the topmost twig. That is the compulsory watching of The Muppets Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens has a lot of Christmas traditions to be thanked for, and his short story about Ebeneezer Scrooge is the source of many of them. Dickens was, it seems, a warm, emotional character, despite his lifelong drive to enrich himself. Fear of poverty and want dogged him, but he was no Scrooge, sharing his bonhomie and generosity with many, though sometimes not wisely!

O Henry, the twist in the tale short story writer was another Christmas sentimentalist, with his tear jerking story The Gift of the Magi, which out-sentimentals Dickens, but doesn’t dig to the depths of the human condition the way the ‘Carol’ does. It’s worth mentioning that the climax of the written story is Scrooge’s encounter with the two feral children, Want and Ignorance, who crouch beneath the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come’s robes. They had an airing on Radio 4 earlier in the month, which is good, because the tone of earnest, and trenchant campaigning that overtakes the story at that point might seem out of place in the more personal and family orientated events of the rest. They are our children, Dickens tells us, and of the two we should fear most the boy, Ignorance, a warning that seems more than usually potent as 2016 draws to its close.

Whatever you call it, the spirit of Dickens’ Christmas was, and remains, that of goodwill to all men (by which he meant people), but it was a goodwill that in his own life he made sure to put into action and that is all we need to do, I suspect, to solve most of the problems we see around us.

I wish I could tell you that I have been successful in that myself, but I wish you a Merry and a Joyful festive season nevertheless!