Merry Christmas to all…

The Christmas Song

Christmas is the day that holds all time together.

—Alexander Smith

The Nat King Cole Trio recorded The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You) in 1946 and turned it into a Christmas classic one year after Bob Well and Mel Torme wrote it. The song is also commonly subtitled as Chestnut’s Roasting on an Open Fire due to its opening lyrics.

Multiple song arrangements have been recorded throughout the years but the most notable version has to be Cole’s which includes the warm sounds of a small string section. The lyrics are filled with warm Christmas feelings and sweet holiday imagery including: “Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe/ Help to make the season bright…Yuletide carols being sung by a choir/ And folks dressed up like Eskimos.”

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The popular Christmas song has been covered by many artists including Christina Aguilera for her 2000 album, My Kind of Christmas and Michael Bublé on his Let it Snow EP.

Check out the full lyrics below to get in the Christmas spirit. 

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight
They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother’s child is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly

And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you

And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you 

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It is Christmas Eve and I hope you are reading this someplace cozy, surrounded by friends and family, your partner, your dog, your cat… 

I hope there’s a soft chime of Christmas music playing in the background and something delicious cooking in the oven. I hope you are warm, healthy, and grateful for everything mentioned above.

If this year looks different for you, if you are not warm, or healthy, or surrounded by friends and family, this space is for you too.

This year, much like the past two, has presented new challenges. Prices are high, gifts may be fewer, and miles traveled may also be fewer.

Things that are always free to give: love, kindness, a smile, a wave, a hug, your favorite book off your bookshelf, a phone call…

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I’ve been working hard to try and define ourselves here at Who are we really? What’s the point of all this? Why do I do what I do? Much of it boils down to my love of the RV lifestyle and a desire to share my years of experiences—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

If you have an RV whether it’s a big Class A that you live in full-time whether it’s a small teardrop trailer that you and your family take out on the weekends or whether you live in an RV because it’s your only option or place of shelter, it doesn’t matter. One thing I’ll always say: We’re all RVers. Our community is for everyone.

As usual, I will post a newsletter tomorrow and I wish you the Merriest of Christmases—and, to my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah.

Whatever your day may be, wherever you are and however you’re spending it—may your day be merry and bright.

Worth Pondering…

A joy that is shared is a joy made double.

John Roy

On This Day in History, December 19, 1843: Charles Dickens Publishes A Christmas Carol

Timeless tale of human redemption and self discovery

A Christmas Carol, a globally celebrated timeless tale of heartwarming human redemption crafted as a haunting holiday ghost story, was published in London on this day in history, December 19, 1843.  

Except for the biblical narrative of the birth of Christ itself, A Christmas Carol may be the world’s most well-known and most frequently retold tale of the holiday.

English author Charles Dickens, 31 years old at the time, had recently gained literary celebrity following the release of Sketches by Boz, The Pickwick Papers, and Oliver Twist.

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A Christmas Carol was written over a few short weeks to ensure its publication before Christmas 1843 but its message has stood the test of time notes the Charles Dickens Museum of London. 

“Recognized by critics on its publication as ‘a national benefit to every man and woman who reads it a personal kindness’, the story has been retold and adapted ever since.” 

Rich, miserly, and lonely, Ebenezer Scrooge derives pleasure only in his money, bitterly laments the arrival of Christmas and the joy displayed by its celebrants, and detests the indigents who suffer on the streets of Industrial Revolution London. 

“If they would rather die they had better do it and decrease the surplus population,” Scrooge says in one alarming insight into his soul. 

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Yet he is filled with goodwill toward man after a series of ghosts take him on a journey through his life of joyful past, detestable present, and ominous future.  

“His wealth is of no use to him. He don’t do any good with it,” Scrooge’s nephew says in a revealing moment of the emptiness of his dispirited existence. 

A Christmas Carol has gone down as Dickens’ most famous and most culturally impactful story in a career that produced a long list of classics that followed. Among them: David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations.

Characters and catchphrases from the short book have not only stood the test of time; they entered the lexicon on both sides of the Atlantic and remain there nearly 200 years later.

Scrooge is synonym for a miser. 

His signature terse retort, “Bah, humbug” is uttered to express grumpy mocking disdain. 

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Dickensian describes situations of urban decay or the poor who live among it such as Scrooge’s browbeaten employee, Bob Cratchit. 

“God bless us, everyone,” the gleeful refrain at the end of A Christmas Carol, spoken by Cratchit’s crippled son Tiny Tim is an often-used toast that sums up almost any joyful occasion when other words fail.

“Though he spent mere weeks writing it, Dickens’ novella about the original Christmas Grinch has been a holiday staple for nearly two centuries, giving rise to countless adaptations for stage and screen,” Paulette Beete wrote in 2020 for the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Beete cites an incredible list of adaptions: more than 100 film versions according to the International Movie Database, 20 television series that have featured A Christmas Carol or its characters; four operas, two ballets; and even a video game. 

Several versions of A Christmas Carol have become annual holiday viewing fare for millions of families. 

A 1951 black-and-white version starring Alistair Sims as Scrooge is considered a classic among the many adapts and is still found on television nearly 75 years later. 

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Dickens’ beloved tale of Christmas in 19th-century London may have had its origins in the United States. The young author visited the United States in 1842 where he met one of his literary icons, the much older and more celebrated American author Washington Irving. Dickens spent time with Irving and his brother, Ebenezer Irving. 

Dickens returned to England and began writing A Christmas Carol.

Character archetypes who liven the pages of A Christmas Carol first appeared in Irving’s writing, literary scholars and Irving fans have noted as do many of the idyllic images we now associate with a classic 19th-century Christmas. 

“Irving (as alter ego Geoffrey Crayon) waxes rhapsodic over the traditional pleasures of Christmas at a fictional country estate called Bracebridge Hall,” notes the website of Historic Hudson Valley where Irving lived and placed many of his stories. 

“If any author can lay claim to inventing this venerable holiday, it’s Washington Irving.”

“I say, gentlemen, I do not go to bed two nights out of seven without taking Washington Irving under my arm upstairs to bed with me,” Dickens reportedly said, according to multiple sources. 

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Yet there is no doubting the impact of A Christmas Carol on the holiday season or on English-language literature. 

Scrooge “became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world,” Dickens writes at the end of the famous tale.  

“Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh … His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.”

Worth Pondering…

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Do You Really Know A Christmas Carol?

A story of redemption and self-discovery

Like many Christmas traditions and trappings, a fresh look at them may return luster to a dullness that can build up over time. In fact, from a cultural perspective, such an exercise is part of the whole purpose of Christmas and the approaching New Year.

It’s a time to consider ourselves in a new light and appreciation our blessings. Serving as a means to accomplish this is a story that stands as largely unfamiliar although many claim otherwise: Charles Dickens’s 1843 masterpiece, A Christmas Carol.

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This is a story that everyone knows yet few remember for what it truly is: a tale that sings out like a caroler pounding at the door on the night before Christmas. Its purpose is to awaken us to the reality of our life journey and the need to love one another along our way.

A Christmas Carol is a ghost story in which Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserable old sinner and tightfisted financier, is haunted on Christmas Eve by his business partner, Jacob Marley, who’s been dead as a doornail for seven years. Scrooge learns from Marley that torments await him in the afterlife for his misspent time.

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To sidestep the terrible path that Marley’s ghost treads, Scrooge accepts visitations from three spirits who come to offer him reclamation. They show Scrooge how his misery is self-inflicted and how much happiness he stands to gain by simply making others happy.

From his boyhood memories to his own chilling deathbed, the spirits lead  Scrooge on a difficult, merry, and disturbing journey through time and space to prove to him the profound purpose of every human life—one most clearly seen in the humane light of Christmas.

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As it turns out, Ebenezer Scrooge has proven a soothsayer of our times, for by and large, Christmas actually is something of a humbug these days. It preaches peace but breeds pressure. The ritual of Walmart has replaced the ritual of the wassail. Santa Claus is not really St. Nicholas. The holidays are not really holy days. Christmas is a lost and long-forgotten mystery in need of a great awakening which is the thundering message of Charles Dickens’s carol.

For this reason, A Christmas Carol is an important voice at Christmas, and unlike the customary Christmas fare, it is anything but warm and fuzzy.

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There is nothing warm about the infernal furnaces that stir Jacob Marley’s hair, or the heartbroken young Scrooge abandoned by his father at boarding school over the holidays, or the cold corpse of Tiny Tim surrounded by his family, or the frozen corpse of Ebenezer Scrooge himself alone and unloved with nightshirt and blankets torn away by his cackling charwoman to be sold in a greasy bone shop.

There is nothing fuzzy about neighborly charity or a changed heart—of which this book boasts along with its horrors. And it is at Christmas that people should face these realities for what they are.

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Christmas “is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices,” remind the two gentlemen collecting for the poor in Scrooge’s money-changing hole. And the heartbreaking happiness of Christmas resounds in their words bringing in the dawn of Christmas be they as cold as Scrooge or as warm as his nephew.

His nephew salutes the season “as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time … in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

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There could hardly be a more beautiful or unique expression of the Christmas spirit and we shouldn’t forget it for that distinction alone.

Scrooge’s self-discovery and desire to retract his selfishness is the fruit of the Christmas season. With Scrooge, all can realize a need to purge before answering The Ghost of Christmas’s booming call, “Come in! and know me better man,” and discover the men and women sharing this earth with us, be they lame or blind. And in the words of Tiny Tim, remember the one “who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.”

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The remarkable power of this story is that it is about everyone, awakening memories of who we are and why we are. But to live the lesson of examination and transformation presented by Dickens is a lofty test. We can share the journey with Ebenezer Scrooge by moving away from the “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” into a larger world as we helplessly face eternity.

A Christmas Carol is a song of preparation, passage, and praise. It is indeed a Christmas carol, and the process it initiates is not an easy one. But as the ghostly mentors of Scrooge held up a mirror to him, so too must we face our own pasts, presents, and futures.

Many, hearkening to this call, swear to lead a changed life that will honor the spirit of Christmas and try to keep it all the year by living in the past, the present, and the future.

Let the spirits come. Let them wake us from slumber. A Christmas Carol prepares us not only for Christmas Day but also for every day: for Life, in all its ups and downs. And may it inspire every one of us to cry, “God bless us every one!”

Worth Pondering…

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

When You Are in Need of a Christmas Miracle

Do you need a Christmas miracle this year?

Most everyone has seen or knows the story portrayed by Charles Dickens in his 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol. Dickens describes Scrooge as “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint…secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.”

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Despite having considerable personal wealth, he underpays his clerk Bob Cratchit and hounds his debtors relentlessly while living cheaply and joylessly in the chambers of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. Most of all, he detests Christmas which he associates with reckless spending.

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When two men approach him on Christmas Eve for a donation to charity, he sneers that the poor should avail themselves of the treadmill or the workhouses or else die to reduce the surplus population. He also refuses his nephew Fred’s invitation to Christmas dinner and denounces him as a fool for celebrating Christmas.

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That night, Scrooge is visited by Marley’s ghost who is condemned to walk the world forever bound in chains as punishment for his greed and inhumanity in life. Marley tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits hoping that he will mend his ways; if he does not, Marley warns, Scrooge will wear even heavier chains than his in the afterlife.

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The tale of his redemption by three spirits―the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come―has become known as the embodiment of the Christmas spirit.

Related: The Story of the Poinsettia

Christmas is all about miracles. The story of Scrooge is one of the many miracles at this time of year.

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In Search of a Miracle 

Anna Karenina is a brilliant study of humanity. It’s also the story of a miracle.

Many writers consider Anna Karenina the greatest work of literature ever. Aside from being a novel about betrayal, faith, family, and marriage, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is also a story about one man’s search for meaning in a complicated world. 

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Konstantin Levin, the story’s second main character, spends a large portion of the novel trying to figure out how his wife Kitty could believe in a higher power he’s never seen any signs of. 

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One day, he is listening to a peasant talk about two landowners—a stingy one and a generous one—and asked the peasant, Fyodor, how it could be that these two men are so different from each other. Fyodor replied that the generous landowner “lives for his soul” and “does not forget God,” leading Levin to realize the miracle that he’s been looking for this whole time—goodness. 

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Levin reasons that it’s rational for a person to live for his needs like food and shelter but not for goodness. Yet, humanity knows about this concept called “goodness” and many people even give up their personal interests to be good. So, he reasons, where could this idea have come from if it wasn’t bestowed upon humanity by some higher force? 

Related: O Christmas Tree, Don’t Fall Off my SUV

Levin, the educated noble, likely never expected that an offhand comment by a simple peasant would be what gave him the epiphany he’d been hoping for. 

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Perhaps that’s also part of the miracle that Tolstoy points out—just like every person who still strives for goodness against the odds. Each righteous person is a manifestation of the goodness gifted to humanity and a testament to the strength of this miraculous gift. And perhaps, just like the generous landowner in Fyodor’s story, they can also awaken others to the miracle of goodness in unexpected and powerful ways during the Christmas season. 

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The Miracle of Christmas

For many of us, Christmas is one of the best times of the year. But for others, it can be one of the hardest. The holiday season has a way of bringing up emotions in a way that nothing else can. We can feel joy, love, peace, and contentment or we can feel great sadness, loneliness, stress, and unrest. The term Christmas miracle is often used this time of year. It’s a phrase used to define a miraculous event that is so amazingly spectacular it could have only happened at Christmas.

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There is something about this holiday that brings out mainly the best in people. There seem to be more kindnesses extended, more courtesy expressed and many people find this time a good one to generously give so that those less fortunate also can experience the joy of the season.

Christmas reminds me again of the story of God’s love made incarnate in the miracle of a baby in a faraway spot in the Holy Land called Bethlehem.

Related: Christmas Gift Ideas 2021

It’s a story of hope for all who embrace its majesty and miracle.

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And, of course, the past 22 months have taught us all the need for the miracle of that presence which brings out the best in all of us.

Covered by masks, separated by 6 feet, and afraid to make contact, many have suffered from a feeling of disconnectedness. Many have experienced depression, anxiety, and sometimes anger comes out because of this scourge.

Yet, the miracle is, I believe, still around us.

Related: Christmas Gift Ideas 2019

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For many people, the holidays are a joyous time of year. Adults are eager to take off a few days to celebrate the Christmas Holiday and the New Year. Children are adding presents to their lists and anxiously watching the night sky for signs of Santa.

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These are the hopeful days that the world should cling to. These are the times we need to remember when bad news clouds our memory. These are the moments that we can’t let pass us by.

Worth Pondering…

I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.

—Charles Dickens