Meet the man who invented modern Christmas as we know it

Christmas is here and the holiday spirit may have been invented by an author. Photographer: Armand Hough. African News Agency (ANA)

Christmas is here and the holiday spirit may have been invented by an author. Photographer: Armand Hough. African News Agency (ANA)

Published Dec 25, 2022


Not many authors have achieved the feat of shaping a world-wide annual holiday. This was not the case for Charles Dickens, the Victorian-era icon whose career spanned over two decades.

Born in 1812, his greatest works include Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Great Expectations and more. But A Christmas Carol is where Dickens created this long-lasting tradition that many cultures across the world celebrate.

Known for his attention-grabbing first lines, in A Christmas Carol, Dickens started with ‘’Marley was dead.’’ This was not a cheery start for one of the greatest works of literature of all time. But he had an ace up his sleeve.

Charles Dickens. File photo

At the time of the book’s release, the celebration of Christmas was in decline in Europe. This was due to the industrial revolution, which allowed workers little time for the celebration of Christmas with their families.

A Christmas Carol is about Ebenezer Scrooge, a mean-spirited and selfish old man who despises this day. One frigid Christmas Eve, Scrooge is harsh to his employees, refuses to give to charity, and is disrespectful to his nephew when he invites him to spend the holiday with him.

‘’I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that— as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely.

‘’And to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it,’’ wrote Dickens.

Redemption and being saved from evil are the central themes of this work of literature. The book was an instant hit and revolutionised how Victorians celebrated the day.

‘’I will honour Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.’’

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