We welcome back Meredith, Morte, and Zombie Dennis just in time for Christmas!

To Charles Dickens, Christmas time was a time for ghost stories.  And if such stuff is good enough for Dickens, it’s good enough for me! I’ll see your ghosts, and raise you one zombie and two incarnations of Death!

I’ve been reading Dicken’s A Christmas Carol again. I give it a quick run-through every year simply because it’s that good. It contains elements of everything that Dickens was so good at: humor, sentimentality, social commentary… and, of course, it’s a great ghost story.

“Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.”

It’s hard to believe there was a time before A Christmas Carol ever existed – as though on the seventh day of Creation, as God was leaning back, resting, he snapped his fingers at the angelic host to say, “I need something to read. Give me that Dicken’s Christmas-ghost-thing.” It has been adapted so many times that we take for granted that the merest reference to Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, or Tiny Tim will be fully understood by any listener.

Beyond the traditional “straight” adaptations, there have been versions by the Muppets, the Flintstones, the Smurfs, Mister Magoo, Mickey Mouse, Barbie, and even Dora the Explorer. Somehow, I’m sure that infants are even being exposed to the story while they’re developing in utero, so they enter this world with that narrative structure already imprinted on their tiny little brains.

When a particular story has come to be so much a part of the everyday fabric of our lives (it’s the cotton of literature!), it’s hard to imagine the fury of excitement that the author might have felt in this act of creation.

And Dickens was excited at its creation. At the time, he was working full-time producing his monthly parts for Martin Chuzzlewit, which wasn’t proving anywhere as successful as his previous books, when he developed his plan for A Christmas Carol. He wrote the book over the course of two months, in the small amounts of time that he had free from his main task. According to his biographers, he became emotionally involved in the story and was in frequent states of high excitement. He would take long through London, walking sometimes 10 or 20 miles, late into the evening.

That energy is on every page of the book. Even upon multiple re-readings, the language and story leap off the page, almost demanding to be read aloud, which Dickens did at public readings right up until the end of his life. If you’ve never read the original, or if you haven’t read it in years, do yourself a favor, pick up a copy A Christmas Carol, and give it a go.

“If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”