There’s always that one guy. That guy who’s so miserable he can’t stand to see other people enjoying life. That one guy who, when Christmastime comes, and everyone is singing, and decorating trees, and handing out gifts, he sits in the corner and mumbles to himself, “Bah humbug.” There have been many iterations of this guy throughout our culture, such as the legendary grump, Ebenezer Scrooge. However, none of them have been quite as loathsome and nasty as a furry little critter who lived a long time ago, just outside of Whoville. This is the tale of that scraggly, green, sorry creature called The Grinch.
In the 1957 children’s story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, the first thing we learn about this foul minded beast is that he “hated Christmas!” Not just Christmas itself, but “The whole Christmas season!” That’s a lot of hate for one hairy scoundrel to carry around. The beloved author of the fable, Dr. Seuss, speculates there could be something wrong with his head, or maybe that his shoes are on too tight, but ultimately decides the most likely reason “May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.” Judging by the accompanying illustration on the page, one might argue it’s his legs that are too small. Maybe that’s why The Grinch is frowning so hard. Those teeny tiny legs must have a hard time holding up all the weight from that big bushy belly of his. For someone who despises Christmas, he sure looks like he enjoys a large roasted bird and a plate of milk and cookies regularly.
He looks like that pet at the adoption agency who no one wants to bring home because they can tell as soon as he makes it through the door, he’s going to bite them on the arm or pee on the floor. And afterward, he will grin and do it some more.
Maybe the cranky creep was just jealous of the other Whos down in Whoville. After all, while he was hiding in his cave every holiday, they were dancing and hanging mistletoe. The green meanie doesn’t bother hanging mistletoe because he knows no one is coming around to kiss his gloomy face. He is a miserable, wretched thing. Most Whos wouldn’t touch him with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot candy cane. He’s not just ugly on the outside; he’s grotesque on the inside. The only goal in his grumpy life is to stop Christmas from happening. He detests the noise that every Who makes; he even abhors the food that they bake. He hates what he cannot have. But, he could have it too, if he’d only open his heart, like every other Who. He claims he put up with their annoyances for fifty-three years. That’s a long time to deal with something you do not like, especially something as harmless as Christmas. As the old adage goes: why beat ‘em when you can join ‘em?
He’s a mean one, for sure. An apple, rotten down to its core. A cantankerous curmudgeon with the need to spoil joy. But somewhere, buried beneath those straggly, unkempt whiskers, there is a heart. A heart that is aching to be set free.
Ironically, the crabby thing receives much enjoyment from dressing up as Santa and sliding down chimneys. He even dresses his dog up as a reindeer. On the surface, it appears that he is completely in the holiday spirit. However, his soul is still so sour, and the bliss in his sick, blackened heart comes from stealing gifts, rather than giving them away. But, like most sinister plans, the one from his bitter brain backfires almost immediately. As the Whos rejoice and sing on Christmas morning, despite their lack of gifts, the wicked fiend discovers to his dismay:
“He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!”
And that’s the way it goes. He learned the hard way what the people of Whoville already knew:
“Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store
Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more!”
This couldn’t be truer if it came from the mouth of a real-life Who. Christmas has always been about being there for each other. Once the tired old troll realizes this, he becomes more than just an evil thing, and his heart grows three times big!
At last, we see a real smile on the green one’s face, as he delightfully carves the roast beast. It’s not because he’s about to feast on the delicious meat. It’s because his heart is now complete. The Grinch has finally discovered the true meaning of Christmas, and that’s the greatest gift that any Who can receive.