Did Dickens invent Christmas?

First Edition of A Christmas Carol published in 1843 (public domain)
The celebrated opening. Scrooge is not in a Christmasy mood

Was Christmas a popular festival before Dickens?

By the C17th, Christmas had become a holiday of celebration and enjoyment — especially after the problems caused by the civil war. Cromwell wanted it returned to a religious celebration where people thought about the birth of Jesus rather than ate and drank too much.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Chez Dickens

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! (Fred explaining his attitude to Christmas to his Uncle Scrooge)

All his life Dickens loved Christmas. As a young man he hosted parties like those found at Dingley Dell or at Mr Fezziwig’s Ball. He loved to organise riotous games and show off his very impressive magic tricks — including a sensational one involving a flaming Christmas pudding. On the Twelfth Night he wrote sketches for family members to perform, often taking the lead roles himself.

  • Generosity of spirit — (the opposite of Bah Humbug!, ‘Are there no prisons?)
  • White Christmas’ — Snow on Christmas Eve has always been comparatively rare in London. But as Dickens biographer Peter Ackroyd points out, during the first eight years of his life “there was a white Christmas every year.”
  • Christmas Carols — though there are only fleeting references to Christmas Carols in the original novella, the singing of Christmas songs has become inextricably linked with Dickens.

How did Dickens change the language of Christmas?

The opening of ‘A Christmas Carol’

So should we blame Dickens for a full month of 24/7 Mariah Carey?

Bah Humbug! Toast the great man on the 25th. In the words of Tiny Tim who — spoiler alert — did not die: “God bless us, Every one!”



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