Out of all the Christmas stories, the one that truly brings the spirit of the Season alive (for my household) is the classic tale by Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol". We watch the movies and read it aloud during the weeks leading up to Christmas as a part of our Holiday festivities. We've also attended live theatrical performances of the work, at a small San Jose based theater and at the amazingly immersive large-scale Dickens Fair at the Cow Palace. How did this short story become so intertwined with Christmas?
Christmas itself has a long history with traditions culled from the Roman Saturnalia, the Germanic/Nordic Yule, and the Christian Feast of the Nativity. In England it was a rather raucous celebration until the time of the Puritans, who banned Christmas (from the 1620s to the 1660s). The festivities returned with the Restoration time period. But, by the time Charles Dickens was writing his stories and novels, Christmas itself had changed to a one day celebration. And those who were poor could not count on having the day off, nor could they count on feasting and presents. Charles Dickens himself experienced the ebb and flow of financial upheaval. His father was a bit of a spendthrift who went to Debtor's prison, while Charles (a young boy at the time) worked off his family's debts in the workhouse. These experiences had a great influence upon his writings, and he actively campaigned for children's rights and social reforms.
In 1843, Charles Dickens wrote the short novella "A Christmas Carol". It was published on December 19, 1843, and sold out by Christmas Eve. The story is one of redemption and celebration, and it was widely read and loved by those of many social classes. Dicken's live recitations of "A Christmas Carol" had such an impact, that factory owners and businesses began to close during Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day....giving their employees some time away from work to share the holiday with their families. During the Victorian era, there was an overall embrace of this Holiday Season once again. Christmas was being revitalized into a family holiday through the writings of Washington Irving, Thomas Hervey, and (of course) Charles Dickens. Many of our modern Holiday traditions come from this Victorian era revitalization of Christmas.
The Literary Works of Charles Dickens
"A Christmas Carol" Onscreen
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The characters created by Charles Dickens for "A Christmas Carol", as well as the life events experienced by Mr. Dickens have inspired other writings in the fiction genre.