What if someone told you that Christmas, which is one of the most celebrated festivals of the world today, was an event “scarcely worth mention”?Hard to believe, eh? Well, in the words of writer Leigh Hunt, it was indeed so.
A tryst with the history books about Europe and North America in the 1800s will leave you bewildered and surprised. One would think that a festival that transcends not just geographical boundaries, but religious, cultural, and class barriers as well, influencing billions across the globe to observe it had to have been a big affair! Well, not quite!
Around the early 1800s, Christmas was dying out. In many countries, it was just another day that people would spend going to work as usual. There was hardly anything too exciting about it other than the fact that it was a custom being followed year after year. But then, a sudden change of events happened. Around the 1940s, the Victorians Christmas grew to an extraordinary extent. Much of the Christmas traditions that we follow today were born during this time. In December 1843, Charles Dickens immortalized the spirit of Christmas with his novella, A Christmas Carol, and cinched the deal.
In his book, which is set in London, Dickens narrates a story of redemption. Ebenezer Scrooge, a grumpy and miserly person, dismisses Christmas, “Bah! Humbug.It is a poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every 25th of December!” he says. However, the three ghosts – the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come– visit him in his dream.Scrooge wakes up a different man with kindness in his heart. He spends that Christmas making amends for his bad deeds and spreading happiness among the people around him.
The book was written at a time when the British were examining and exploring Christmas traditions from the past as well as new customs such as Christmas cards, gifts and Christmas trees. Dickens’ role was not so much in inventing these traditions as in resurrecting them to how they are observed and practiced today.
As Christmas arrives and ushers in the New Year, why not take a moment to sit back and reflect on what this simple story can teach us today? To look at it from a learning perspective, Charles Dickens seized the opportunity just when the time was ripe, to create something that would benefit generations to come. Is it then too much to ask from ourselves, the generation of this century, who have the privilege of being born at the junction where digital technologies have been born and proliferated; to breathe new life into the methods that we use to learn? Our forefathers have done their bit, commensurate with their times.To quote from the popular movie Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility”, it is only fair that learning assumes a new shape. Thinking-out-of-the-box has to be put to action instead of being used merely as a jargon; disruptive ideas have to question what is doable and what is not, and digital technologies will be at the core of this learning revolution. One that is based on the solid legacy that forms the foundation of our learning, yet one that is new, exciting, and consumable for the people that will use them today and tomorrow.