Hold on to your Humbugs! Today is the 171st Anniversary of the publication of Charles Dickens’ all-time classic A Christmas Carol. I’m sure everyone knows the story. The miserly Ebenezer Scrooge (recipient of one of Dickens’ best character names, after Uriah Heep and Mr Pumblechook) hates Christmas, and sees it as a massive loss of profit. One Christmas Eve, he is visited by three ghosts (four, if you count the tormented soul of his ex-partner in Humbugging, Jacob Marley) who show him how truly sad his life has become, and how much worse it will be if he doesn’t change his ways. Properly terrified at the prospect of dying alone and having to wander the world in chains for all eternity, and horrified at the poverty in which his clerk and his family are living, Scrooge turns over a new leaf and becomes the most Christmas-loving , kindest man in the world.
One of the most popular stories of all time, A Christmas Carol is considered to be responsible for popularising Christmas as we know it today, with the concept of peace and goodwill at Christmastime being coined “the Carol philosophy”. In 1843, you could get your Christmas-mittened hands on a copy for the cost of 5 shillings (about 21 pounds in today’s market), but you would have had to have been quick – the entire run of 6,000 copies was completely sold out by Christmas Eve (for those of you Scrooges who want to know how much money that would have bought in in today’s market (and shame on you, it’s Christmas!), the answer is around 126,000 pounds). Since then, the book has never been out of print, and has spawned hundreds of different theatre, film and television adaptations, starring everyone from Sir Patrick Stewart to the Muppets. I think my favourite spin-off has to be Scrooge McDuck, the billionaire uncle of Donald Duck who spends his days swimming around in his money bin (a bit like Tolkein’s Smaug, actually…)
While nobody is quite certain what it is Scrooge does for a living, he certainly has been very successful at it. Forbes listed him at number 12 of their Fictional Fifteen in 2005, with an estimated $1.7 billion in the bank (so not quite as rich as Scrooge McDuck, with Forbes estimating him at $44.1 billion in 2011). But is Scrooge really successful? Is he happy doing what he does? According to the three ghosts, not very. His life seems to revolve around his work, and he certainly never treats himself with all the money he earns – his Christmas Eve supper consists of a bowl of gruel, and his house and office are practically falling down around him. So don’t be like Scrooge. Your career is more than how much money you earn, it is about how you live your life, which includes balancing time spent at work with time doing things you enjoy. You may not have a clerk with a crippled son, or a nephew begging you to spend time with him, but at Christmas, take the time to do something you enjoy, whether it’s being with friends and family, or relaxing with a good book on the beach. Or, like Scrooge, you can try and make someone else’s life a little happier – get involved and volunteer! Organisations like Volunteer Wellington, and our very own Victoria Plus Programme can help you on your way to being a reformed-Scrooge yourself.
Or you can just invite your nephews to swim around with you in your money bin. Because as the duck says himself, “what’s the use of having eleven octillion dollars if I don’t make a big noise about it?”
Images © The Walt Disney Company