Maria Gutzeit | Christmas Past, Present, Future

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Merry Christmas! What a great time of year, even if you celebrate other holidays instead. People are in a good mood, and most are looking forward to at least a few days off between now and New Year’s Day.

The classic film “A Christmas Carol” (and modern remakes including “Scrooged”) sets the stage well for year-end ponderings. The three ghosts of Christmas in the movie show us that we need to remember the past, live the present, and strive to improve the future.

The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Ebenezer Scrooge some past events, often painful. He wishes he could forget the happenings that led him to value money over people.

The Ghost of Christmas Past explains to Scrooge, “… these were shadows of the things that have been…. they are what they are.”

Perhaps we have painful pasts, or traditions we miss. My daughter asked me what my favorite toy was as a child. It took me a while to think of one – a bouncing ball that you sit on, which I called a Hoppity Horse.

What I remember more was sticking notes to Santa on the windows, face-out, so the elves could read them. I remember going to Christmas Eve service and coming home to a fully decked out Christmas tree, that wasn’t there hours before, surrounded by presents to be opened Christmas Eve, in the German tradition. (Later my parents decided the American Christmas morning way was easier and let them get more sleep.) My takeaway from the Ghost of Christmas Past is that remembering history is good, but it is what it is, nothing more.

In the 1970 remake “Scrooge,” the Ghost of Christmas Present wisely states, “There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember Scrooge, time is short, and suddenly, you’re not there anymore.”

In each version of the film, Scrooge sees people of all walks of life celebrating Christmas. Some less fortunate show tremendous gratitude for family and the holiday. Some more fortunate have spirit enough to even toast to Scrooge, though acknowledging he’s a hard man to like, to say the least.

At this time of year, it’s important for us all to celebrate what we do have. Most likely it’s plentiful and comfortable. Maybe things aren’t as perfect as we’d like. Work could be challenging, boring, or unrelenting. Old or young, we could be lonelier than we’d like. Many of us are missing family members, which is hard at the holidays. But if we have friends, someplace warm to sleep, and a great community, that’s a good start.

The challenge is not to miss all that we have, when thinking about what we don’t have.

The scariest ghost is the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come. All versions of the film see this ghost saying little, with Scrooge increasingly begging for mercy. He sees things he knows he could have changed if he had paid attention.

He sees his own funeral with only one or two mourners at best or pickpockets at worst.

Though he’s never told he could for sure change things, upon awakening from the last ghostly visit, he wholeheartedly wants to try.

This is a great thought going into New Year’s Day. No matter what happened in childhood, no matter what happened last year or last night, we all have a brand new day ahead of us, even without a ghostly visit.

In 1988’s “Scrooged,” Bill Murray plays TV executive Frank Cross, the Scrooge character. Changed by the last ghost, he points out that on Christmas, “We all act a little nicer. We smile a little easier. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people we hope to be.”

Let’s remember how we hope Christmas to be, and spread that throughout the upcoming New Year.

Happy holidays everyone!

Maria Gutzeit is a chemical engineer, business owner, elected official, and mom living in Santa Clarita. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays and rotates among several local Democrats.

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