Humbug and the Spirit of Christmas

FredIn Stave I of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Fred debates the value of the spirit of Christmas with his uncle Ebenezer Scrooge. The debate takes place in the evening on a dark, cold Christmas Eve in his uncle’s office. Fred invites his uncle to dine with him on Christmas Day and his uncle declines calling Christmas a “humbug.” I have always thought the term “humbug” meant something frivolous or devoid of meaning. It turns out the definition is a little more specific than this. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary “humbug” is defined as “language or behavior that is false or meant to deceive people.” If this is the definition of humbug Charles Dickens intended it casts a slightly different shade on why Ebenezer Scrooge chose this word to describe Christmas.

Throughout the novella Scrooge retorts “humbug” to various things he encounters. For example, when Marley’s ghost appears in his room he utters “humbug.” It seems clear that by “humbug” he means that he does not believe what he sees to be actually real. But according to the definition of the word it would seem that he does not believe what he sees because he feels that someone or something is trying to deceive him. In the same respect he tells his nephew that “Christmas is a humbug” which I therefore take to mean that he does not believe in Christmas because he sees it as some sort of grand deception. Given his material preoccupation I assume he sees Christmas as a deception by the people who profit from the economic activity associated with the holiday. But perhaps he also senses a more spiritual deception going on. This would explain all the ghostly activity to come later that night.

In reaction to his uncle’s branding of Christmas a humbug, Fred begins to defend the holiday’s good name by saying:

… I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that…

Here he pays a winking acknowledgement to the reason for Christmas (i.e., Christ’s incarnation) but does so in a way to suggest that this is not the thrust behind this story (i.e., A Christmas Carol). I do not believe this is a Fox News “War on Christmas” type of thing. It is merely to say that the story Dickens is telling, although set within a Christian context is not about Christianity per se. Rather, it is the story of one man’s spiritual redemption from himself. In a sense Scrooge in this story has pulled the wool over his own eyes. He is perpetrating a humbug on himself, so to speak.

Fred further describes Christmas as:

 … as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, 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. 

I assume most people recognize the childlike spirit of the season he describes. I remember feeling this more intensely when I was younger. Essentially, there is something about the Christmas season that makes people want to be nicer to each other, to relax their egocentric judgment and to pay less attention to false excuses for division such as politics, race and indeed religion.

Children are not as fixated on these things. They only come to value them when they are taught to value them by adults. Jesus himself said, “… Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (MT 18:3). Perhaps this childlike spirit of Christmas is a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven. Perhaps this childlike spirit is revealed when one pulls back the various humbugs of adulthood.

Clearly Scrooge is the antithesis of the childlike spirit Fred describes. For one thing, he is old. I have often heard people react to “A Christmas Carol” by saying that even though Scrooge redeemed himself he must have been disappointed or regretful that his redemption did not happen earlier in life. But this observation misses the point, I think. It is precisely Scrooge’s age in spirit that required redeeming. He had to become more childlike to enter the kingdom of heaven. As such, his physical age is symbolic of his spiritual age which exudes all the traits of ego dominated adulthood.

Fred continues:

And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!

Here he contrasts this childlike spirit of Christmas with the materialism with which it stands in opposition to. A childlike spirit is not cynical. It does not suspect a humbug around every corner. It is not greedy, grasping or full of ego. It is not mean spirited, judgmental or racist. Rather, the childlike spirit of Christmas is open hearted, compassionate, full of life, anticipation and excitement. It exposes the humbug of division and reveals the true fact that we are all “fellow passengers to the grave” and this earthly existence and our physical, skin deep appearances are not what is ultimately important.


Filed under A Christmas Carol

35 responses to “Humbug and the Spirit of Christmas

  1. thordaddy


    A child-like spirit does not see “humbug” around every corner because the child literally does not know deception even in part. In fact, to be child-like is to be completely open to truth despite total ignorance of deception. But this child-like spirit is in no way a MANDATE to be oblivious to total deception. Such an intepretation really undercuts the idea of what it means to possess a child-like spirit into a “cross your fingers and hope we don’t die” mentality…

  2. thordaddy


    The problem is not your belief that you can walk hand and hand towards Perfection with the other, but that there is no other that refuses to walk hand and hand with you to Perfection and in your denial a willingness to self-annihilate to prove, paradoxically, other-wise.

  3. thordaddy


    Do you think all men or every race of men “sees” the self-evident logic in worshipping The Perfect Man? Do has evidence for such an egalitarian bias? Think of the very paradox you are now embroiled in? Two white men who believe in Perfection AT ODDS? How can that be? Is it REALLY because I’m “racist” and you are deracinated? So Perfection is of secondary concern
    TO WHOM exactly?

    • I’m not sure what your point is but I do sense that you feel Ebenezer Scrooge would have been better off without his conversion and remained a miserable old man…

      • thordaddy


        My point is your implicit idea that Christianity will have you discount certain realities as a means to salvation. The scrooge in Scrooge was not his penchant for seeing humbug all about, but in recognizing no redeeming truth anywhere. Contrast this to the child-like spirit who can “see” no deception (due being a child) while endlessly seeking the truth in everything (because he is an INNOCENT child). The “command” to be child-like (are you reading Dr. Charlton) is not a command to “see” no evil, but a remembering of a time when desire for truth was all the child knew and loved.

      • What realities do you feel I am discounting?

      • thordaddy


        All racial realities from individuals to the collective…

      • Please identify one specific racial reality that you feel I have discounted.

      • thordaddy


        Your deracinated “child-like spirit” experience is ideologically-induced…

      • What is the racial reality you are attempting to describe?

      • thordaddy


        That the white race has strived towards Supremacy more fervently and faithfully than all other races, historically-speaking… And this is the impetus behind anti-white Supremacy… And you know this AS A Christian, but deny it to save face with Liberalism.

      • Please define what you mean by Supremacy in this context.

      • thordaddy


        Objective Supremacy = Perfection…

        Are you unable to conceive the absolute truth of above equation?

        On what basis do you “credit” the inconceivability of the above equation?

        I call this basis “radical autonomy.”

      • Perfection and supremacy are very general terms. You have accused me of specifically discounting racial realities. I want you to tell me what that means. You should be able to do that concretely.

      • thordaddy


        This is where you must travel with me to the meta-debate… And the manner in which you keep us mired in radical autonomy and inconceivability AND THEN my duty as a white Supremacist is to simply reiterate truth in the face of redundant questioning.

        You are simply too smart NOT TO BE ABLE to conceive these answers ON YOUR OWN…

        In other words, you recognize ample evidence throughout the the world THAT JUST MIGHT make some believe that the white race DESIRES absolute Perfection more than all other races… And its historic adherence to Christianity is the most self-evident proof of such an unrivaled desire… And modern MRKA is evidence of its antithesis… Its “equality…” Its anti-Perfection… Anti-white Supremacy.

        This frame sets the high IQ “white” male into a “neo-reaction.” He cannot possibly claim OTHER RACES more fervently desirous of Perfection without FIRST legitimating the desire… And he also cannot say this desire is equal amongst all races because it’s just empirically absurd and anti-science… Some races know not of Perfection at all… Some races reject and deny in totality Perfection itself… And of course, he CANNOT POSSIBLY agree that the white race strives towards Perfection more than all other races… Because that would make him a white Supremacist.

      • But what do you mean by perfection?

      • thordaddy


        Perfection is not equal to “perfection” so when you ask, “what do I mean by small (p)erfection,” YOU ARE PURPOSELY BEING inarticulate… The post to which you are referring only uses big (P)erfection and so I grant the understandability of your question DESPITE its sloppy articulation. But, you are purposely using the technique of a liberated lexicon to maximize your autonomy…

        Perfection in the absolute sense is He who wills all right… Perfection in the worldly sense is its empirical incarnation… He who wills all right… In human parlance, he who wills all right is being perfect… This man is Jesus Christ.

        Now, this is where you once again with redundant “flair” ask how this connects to my “racial theories.”

      • You still are not answering the question. What is perfection? How does one know they are being perfect with specificity?

      • thordaddy


        When they are not degenerating… When they are not self-annihilating… When they are seeking to do all right.

      • What evidence do you have to support your theory that the white race has pursued this course of perfection more than any other race?

      • thordaddy


        Is this ^^^ a rhetorical question? What evidence would suffice to satiate your bewildered inquiry? In other words, if a race of white men strove towards Perfection, what would the result “look like?”

      • You are the one making the claim that white people take Christianity more seriously than non white people. You must have some basis for believing this.

      • thordaddy


        The last thousand years of history doesn’t suffice… The widely-held perception that all the Anglosphere is post-CHRISTIAN… The reigning bureaucracy of the Catholic Church… The Biblically-inspired cathedrals of Europe… EVEN idealized LIberalism itself… The ideology of National Socialism… The Singularity… YOU, yourself…

        Do you even know of another race unquestionably set on Perfection equal to the white race?

      • You seem to equate perfection with reproduction. Don’t racial demographic suggest that other races are striving for perfection more vigorously than white people (using your definition)?

      • thordaddy


        You are kidding, right? Clearly, mere existence is necessary to strive towards Perfection… But a whole existence, one in which the Self is whole and not in a state of disassociative chaos, can ideally strive towards Perfection with maximum faith… Knowing this is then to desire to pass “it” along to a child-like spirit of one’s purposeful initiative.

      • And World Wars I and II… Are these examples of Thad white race taking Christianity more seriously than other races and striving for perfection?

      • thordaddy


        In fact, if one conceives the National Socialist regime of Hitler as the epitome of Evil and the extirpation of Evil is understood as desire for perfection then “yes,” indeed…

      • But Hitler was white… And I don’t think he took Christianity seriously

      • thordaddy


        Hitler was anti-white Supremacy… America circa 1930’s was fighting as as a white Christian force against other whites. In the meta-analysis, these were wars of German self-annihilation and the spread of anti-white Supremacy across the globe.

      • So since some whites are supremacists and some are not why make distinctions along racial lines? Wouldn’t it make more sense to make distinctions along the lines of those who pursue perfection and those who do not?

      • thordaddy


        Obviously, one can make a general distinction between Supremacist and anti-Supremacist and more particular distinction between white Supremacist and anti-white Supremacist.

      • But your premise is that white people make better Christians than non whites. But if some white people are good Christians and some aren’t doesn’t this undermine this premise? For example, is it not possible for the best black Christian to be closer to perfection than the worst white Christian? If so, how can this be a racial reality that I am at fault for discounting?

      • thordaddy


        No, that’s not my premise… My premise is that the global regime of anti-white Supremacy FORBADES with violent tendency the ascension of any of the best of white Christian men. My premise is that the global regime of anti-white Supremacy ONLY EXALTS deracinated and self-annihilating “Christians” as models of emulation.

      • Not sure the evidence bears that out but your opinion is duly noted. I really don’t want to go down your racial path with this post. We have already covered this material ad nauseum. It’s negative, it’s not what I want to focus on right now and it’s quite frankly a little boring. Any further comments along this line will be deleted (fair warning). Merry Christmas.

  4. Pingback: The Solipsism of Scrooge | Winston Scrooge

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