Ghost of Christmas Past

I love Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I have read it many times, and each year I watch numerous adaptations of it on television and film.  The whole idea that it is never too late to realize what is important, never too late to change into a better version of yourself, has always appealed to me.  In fact, tonight I plan to curl up under the beautiful throw my friend Colette gave me for Christmas and watch “Scrooge”, the musical version starring Albert Finney — a film I remember seeing in the theater as a kid.

When I was younger, I found the idea of the three ghostly visitors to be frightening in a thrilling way.  Who wouldn’t want ghosts like these to visit and show you glimpses of the lives your life has touched?  This year, though, I am a little less enthralled with one particular ghoul — The Ghost of Christmas Past.

It isn’t that my memories of Christmas are difficult — in fact, I come from a Christmas-loving family who turned each holiday-related experience or activity into an annual tradition until we were fulfilling someone’s “favorite” tradition from sun-up Christmas Eve through sun-down on Christmas Day.  Elves, stockings, surprise visits from Santa himself…all of these memories I treasure.

But I also remember Christmases that began with homemade cinnamon bread with icing, followed by trays of delicious goodies, pretzels and cheese spread, stolen nibbles from the table before the actual hour of the meal arrived.  I can remember a couple of occasions when, after grazing for hours I sat down and ate two heaping helpings of every dish served.  There have been Christmas afternoons when I have lain on a sofa or floor and wondered if this was going to be the year my stomach actually exploded.

Dear Readers, I would be lying if I said I know for a fact that this year will not be like that.  One thing about getting where I am today with regard to food and weight is that I am a world-champion justifier.  And the absolute best justification in the past has been, “Its Christmas”.  Beautiful in its truth and simplicity.

In Dickens’ tale, each Ghost forces Ebineezer Scrooge to look at both the bright and dark moments of life.  My personal Ghost of Christmas Past is causing me to take a hard look at how it happened that I confused eating foods I love with feeling loved.  It is also asking me to keep in mind that, like Scrooge, I have been equating my emotional need with the very real need felt by so many. This is how I have justified hoarding and loading up rather than open-handedly sharing bounty I’ve been given;  it is how I have justified overindulgences of many kinds.  Scrooge and I, in our relative wealth and comfort, have both been too self-focused. 

Thursday morning, Christmas Eve, I will weigh-in on the scale at my sister Gwen’s home.  It will reveal a momentary snapshot of where I am on this quest to both change myself and make a difference for others.  I want to thank all of you for your support and encouragement these past few weeks.  I know that whatever the scale says this week or next, you will continue to offer these wonderful gifts. 

May the holiday season be bright with light and laughter for us all.  And may it be said of each of us, as in the end it was said of Scrooge — that if anyone knows how to keep Christmas, we do!


This week’s hunger relief organization is a local, Eastern Iowa,  agency named HACAP (Hawkeye Area Community Action Program.  Their tag line: “A help up, not a hand out.”  HACAP is a member of the Feeding America network of food programs.  I’ve copied, below, some of the accomplishments of their food resevoir program.  They can be found at  HACAP’s programs make a real difference throughout this community.

The Food Reservoir Program:

  • Distributes approximately 1.4 million pounds of food to local organizations;
  • Provides over 5,000 food boxes a year for families in need;
  • Serves as a food distributor for Holiday Assistance Programs, which help over 2,800 families annually
  • Operates the HACAP Adopt-a-Family Program that links over 300 families with individuals and organizations wishing to donate food and gifts to needy families; and
  • Saves the 103 partner agencies over $2,000,000 in food costs, based on wholesale costs, thereby allowing them to spend those funds on other program activities and services.