The beginning of this story goes very far back into the past, but the significance of it is as clear now as it was when it began. Many generations ago, immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Scotland, and England were streaming into America–the land of promise and hope–and in the mid to late 19th century, our distant ancestors arrived in New York through Ellis island, and became American citizens in a very different world than the one we know today. After several generations of children were born in this country, the paths of a number of individuals from those generations came together, and began the foundations of our current extended family.
From these beginnings, two young hearts, brought into being, a tradition of love and togetherness, under circumstances that were by no means guaranteed to succeed, but which nonetheless did succeed in the long run because those two hearts both agreed that nothing was going to stop them.
Christmas time has always been a special time in our family, and over the years, through all the trials, tribulations, triumphs, and tragedies, our family has endured whatever came, and our generation now has stepped up to lead the way, as each of our ancestors has done before us. We each have made a unique contribution to the history of our family legacy, and each one of you…will one day be where we are now, and when that time comes, we hope you will all feel a sense of urgency to continue to gather as we are doing today.
“The Pickwick Papers” were written by Charles Dickens, and originally published in small installments between 1836 and 1837. This collection of stories was the first fictional work of Charles Dickens, published when he was 24 years old. As you will notice upon reading this brief excerpt, Dickens was clearly wise beyond his years at the time.
It is about Christmas, but it is more precisely about why Christmas is so important to us. He describes the feelings which make it such a significant time to share with our families, by describing to us, the way in which those who came before us, and who are no longer with us, still reverberate in our memories of Christmas celebrations.
The reality of life in the early 1820’s and 30’s made such descriptions less powerful than they are for us today, since it was much more common for people to experience the loss of family members in those days. Dickens himself only lived to age 58. At one point in this excerpt, he uses the word “unalloyed” which means “not mixed or intermingled with any other thing, pure.”
“Christmas was close at hand, in all its bluff and hearty honesty; it was the season of hospitality, merriment, and open-heartedness; the old year was preparing, like an ancient philosopher, to call his friends around him, and amidst the sound of feasting and revelry to pass gently and calmly away.
…And numerous indeed are the hearts to which Christmas brings a season of happiness and enjoyment. How many families, whose members have been dispersed and scattered far and wide, in the restless struggles of life, are then re-united, and meet once again in that happy state of companionship and mutual good will, which is a source of such pure and unalloyed delight,
How many old recollections, and how many dormant sympathies, does Christmastime awaken!
We write these words now, many miles distant from the spot at which, year after year, we met on that day, a merry and joyous circle. Many of the hearts that throbbed so gaily then, have ceased to beat; many of the looks that shone so brightly then, have ceased to glow; the hands we grasped have grown cold; the eyes we sought have hid their luster in the grave; and yet the old house, the room, the merry voices and smiling faces, the jest, the laugh, the most minute and trivial circumstances connected with those happy meetings, crowd upon our mind at each recurrence of the season, as if the last assemblage had been but yesterday! Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveler, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!”
May each of the visitors and readers here enjoy the spirit of the season in whatever way they feel most at home, and can find a way to get back in touch with “the delusions of our childhood days,” and “recall the pleasures of their youth,” back to their own traditions in whatever way holds meaning for them.
Blessings to all…John H.
2 thoughts on “Pickwick Papers”
What a lovely quote. I must read Pickwick Papers, it was a favourite of my father’s. Christmas Carol was a book I used to read every Christmas. Also lovely. Happy Christmas to you!
Happy Christmas to you also, my friend! Our association has recently become one that I very much appreciate and hope to expand on in the coming year.
Our family traditions have truly been handed down through generations, in ways that are echoed in Dickens’ writings above. My own personal memories of early childhood Christmas celebrations include stories my parents would tell us about their childhood Christmas memories, and last night, as is our tradition these days, however many of our children and extended family and family friends who are able to attend, gather at our home on Christmas Eve, and now WE tell our stories to THEM. We enjoy being together, even if it is just for a few hours, and it never fails to produce the stories that “…crowd upon our mind at each recurrence of the season, as if the last assemblage had been but yesterday!”
May you benefit greatly from whatever activities ensue during this time of year!
Kind regards….John H.