Thanks to his landmark 1843 novel A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens is often credited with inventing Christmas and the winter holidays as we know them.
In 1843, when his fifth child was about to be born, Charles Dickens needed to publish a new bestseller to support his growing family, so he began writing a ghost story—one which would become one of his most beloved stories, namely “A Christmas Carol”.
After writing it in just six weeks, Dickens self-funded the book’s publication due to a dispute with his publishers, he writes History Extra.
The price was set at five shillings so that practically everyone could afford it, and the book proved so popular that some 6,000 copies were sold in just a few days.
Charles Dickens, the one who invented Christmas?
It was an immediate success with the public, but quickly spawned a number of “pirated” copies, forcing Dickens to take a series of legal actions to protect his creation.
The writer’s motives were not limited to just telling a good story and the obvious financial benefits. Dickens had recently returned from a tour of northern England, where he witnessed the hardships of everyday life for Britain’s poor.
In A Christmas Carol, Dickens found a subtle way to highlight the plight of the poor.
It’s the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly moneylender who hates Christmas and doesn’t care about anyone but himself. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his dead business partner, Jacob Marley, who warns him that if he continues on his path of greed and selfishness, he will spend eternity in torment.
Dickens’ novel encouraged a revival of the holiday season
“Dickens, it may truly be said, is Christmas,” said the literary scholar VH Allemandy in 1921. Yet, important as he undoubtedly was, Dickens did not invent Christmas.
Rather, the writer reflected a general early nineteenth-century interest in this season and was part of a widespread, especially middle-class, desire to revive ancient customs.
So Dickens’ festive novel encouraged a revival of the holiday season. The story conjures up the image of a nostalgic Victorian Christmas and remains so ingrained in popular culture that even today misers are often nicknamed Scrooge.