One common definition of a classic is a work that you can read again and again and get something new from every time. Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol fits that for me. Every Christmas for the past several years I've experienced A Christmas Carol in one form or another - reading it aloud to my children, listening to an audio book version, watching a movie. For my family Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Scrooge.
This year I simply read it to myself. While the plot is familiar - miserly Scrooge is transformed after visits from the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come - I found myself considering things I hadn't before - possibly because I was reading it myself and not sharing it with children.
For some reason I was particularly taken with considering why Scrooge was the way he was and linking that to issues in his formative years that are touched upon during his time with the Ghost of Christmas Past, especially a cruel father and banishment to boarding school. Focusing more on the young Scrooge gave me a different insight into the adult Scrooge. I was also taken with the role of the novella in our concept of Christmas, Dickens' symbolic use of light and dark, and possible connections between Scrooge's transformation and the annual seasonal transformation from winter to spring. Once I finished reading I also spent time exploring references to A Christmas Carol in popular culture today - another thing that marks this work as a classic.
Some people find Dickens difficult due to his lengthy sentences. The relatively short length of A Christmas Carol - a mere five staves - makes this less daunting. And the fact that it is frequently referenced today makes it less strange and therefore more accessible. For those who haven't yet sampled Dickens this is a great place to start. And for those who have it is a work that warrants a reread. I know I'll be returning to it at the end of the year.