Hello, my sweetie!
I’m sure you already know A Christmas Carol, as it is one of the most popular and beloved holiday tales of all time. But do you know the history surrounding it?
The popularity of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has played a decisive role in establishing Christmas, in the way they are celebrated and in the dominant position they have acquired in Western culture. Everything took the form we know today at the end of the 19th century.
In October 1843, British author Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870) begins writing one of the most popular and beloved books of all time, the story “A Christmas Carol”…
He wrote the book in six weeks, in the gaps between the popular novel The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, which was published in a sequel and it had not received much attention so far. It was a difficult time in his career. “A Christmas story, perhaps more cost-effective”, he had thought. And he was right!
Dickens biographer John Forster writes that once he conceived the story, he absorbed every thought. He walked fifteen, even twenty miles in the night, on the “black streets of London”, contemplating the evolution and “chatting” with the heroes with the excitement of a child.
But when he showed the manuscripts to his publishers, they could not understand why A Christmas Carol would be interesting, as it was neither popular nor widespread. But Dickens had, among other things, given importance to one important “detail”: Queen Victoria had just married the German Prince Albert.
Eventually, Dickens wrote four books on Christmas, but none had the success of A Christmas Carol that became a best-seller in record time.
Here are some interesting facts that you may not know about A Christmas Carol. Keep reading sweetie! 🙂
In the Slums of London…
Every Christmas Eve, Dickens visited Christmas markets in the East End and wandered into the slums, looking at families a few hours before Christmas dinner. It is no coincidence that the record in his book is so detailed, ingenious and, of course, elaborate: faces, roads, grocers, baked ovens, stacks of fresh fruit, mud, cold, and smiling kids with red cheeks and pieces of pudding. He also had an excellent memory.
The slums were familiar to him. At the age of fifteen, Dickens was forced to quit school to pay for his living expenses and to help his family pay off his father’s debt.
He worked ten-hour shifts at the Warren Shoe Warehouse in Hungerford Stores, near present-day Charing Cross Station. He earned only 6 shillings a week by gluing labels on shoelaces. Can you imagine that?
Dickens began writing his story when he saw a state-run report on child labor. The report took the form of interviews with minors—interviewed by a journalist friend of the author—and described in detail how 8-year-old children worked 16 hours a day, six days a week, sewing clothes or dragging carts.
A Christmas Carol
As the story goes, on Christmas Eve, 1843, in Victorian England. Ebenezer Scrooge is a greedy miser whose only joy is the misery of his fellow humans. He hates Christmas, arguing that everything is a scam, and he hates people who are happy at the holidays. He takes advantage of his poor and hard-working employee Bob Cratchit, having him work all day, paying him little, without worrying about his tragic financial situation.
On the eve of Eve, when Scrooge goes home, the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley, appears in front of him, trying to explain to him that if he does not change his way of life, he will have the same outcome as him…
On the same night, three spirits visited him. They traveled him to his past, present, and future and tried to warm his heart by showing him the mistakes in his life and urging him to change his erased course… Was it possible for him to change?
With the Vehicle of “Christian Truth”
In A Christmas Carol Dickens not only offers a vivid depiction of the Christmas atmosphere, but he writes with the aim of making his story a vehicle of Christian truth.
After all, the issue is not the celebration, but the turning to compassion and generosity: the moral and emotional transformation of the strange and jaded Ebenezer Scrooge after the nightly visit he receives from his late co-worker Jacob Marley and the Christmas ghosts of the Past, Present, and Future.
After that, Christmas is bathed in heavenly light. Dickens somehow “transforms” biblical scenes and symbols, finding a way even for a new “reading” of baptism.
There is no doubt that Dickens’s novel is primarily a story of Christianity and human liberation with the aid of divine grace.
Manger, Tree, and Carols
Somewhere there, at the end of the 19th century, came the “Nativity Scene”, which as a custom goes back to the time of Francis of Assisi (1182 – 1226), and the word “manger” symbolizing the birth of Christ in Bethlehem begins to be used.
The new addition to the English Christmas was of German origin and was nothing more than the Christmas tree brought by German Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband.
Dickens uses the tree to unite under his branches the powerful images of Christmas with gifts and toys of childhood.
In the light of grace “all ordinary things become unusual and enchanted” he writes, incorporating this image into the central theme of his story, the conversion.
As for ghosts, it is but a reminder of Victorian England’s love for the paranormal.
Also, until the 19th century, Christmas had no carols, only hymns. The carols were originally songs of joy accompanied by dance. The word itself comes from the Italian, carola (carols) which means “circular dance”.
Dickens’ “A Christmas carol” reflected, and at the same time, contributed to the revival of Christmas in the Victorian era.
Perhaps this is why Dickens, the author of “The History of Two Cities” and “Oliver Twist”, remained in history as the man who devised Christmas.
Well, my sweetie, this is the end of this article!
I hope you enjoyed it—I certainly did while writing it!
Thank you for accompanying me on my writing journey!
It would be lovely if you could share your thoughts with me! Or whatever you like…Surprise me!
Have your best Christmas ever, sweetie!
Written by Violet Hamers