This year I have the great honor of working on A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie. This is their 37th production and my second. I forgot what a grueling schedule it is. We opened last Wednesday after a week of 10-12 hour tech rehearsals and previews, had Thursday off for Thanksgiving and rounded out the weekend with 6 shows in 3 days. I'm tired. And I'm not even Scrooge.
Not surprisingly, one can get a bit Scroogian in one's feelings toward Christmas mirth. Luckily, luckily, there are the little girls in velvet dresses. They sit there in the audience trying desperately to stay in their own seats like big girls, but the Ghost of Marley appears and forces them into the safe laps of their parents. It's the first play they've ever seen and while they may not remember the experience later, they will never forget it. I love those little girls in velvet dresses because they remind me how thrilling live performance is and that, in fact, it still thrills me -- even during the 6th show in 3 days.
There is a tremendous tradition created and upheld by one of the long time Christmas Carol cast members of participating in the Adopt-a-Family program. The entire Carol company is assigned a family in need, tasked with donating/raising money, shopping for the items on the family's Wishlists, wrapping the mountain of resulting presents (which is then celebrated with a chili cook off) and delivering the bounty to the family in time for Christmas. They are often referred to as The Cratchit Family; a tangible reminder of Dickens' words:
But 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 -- 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. 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!'
In a divorced family holidays are always hectic and tricky. The chaos grows when one gets married and gets trickier when one works long holiday hours. Ultimately, it's the traditions that get me through the stress of the holiday season. I know that I will eat Egg Dish with my mom. I know that I will get an ornament from my dad. It doesn't matter where or when those two things happen, just that they will happen. Those two traditions act like a beacon in the chaos; like star in the field.