The Man Who Invented Christmas

I don’t read the newspaper very carefully in December. I’m short on time to complete holiday projects, and I do what I can to conserve hours. As I race and skim through the national, regional, business and arts news, one recurring theme catches my attention. Articles that mention Charles Dickens and his holiday story A Christmas Carol seem to appear daily.

wpachristmascarol
Federal Theatre Marionettes present “A Christmas Carol.” Works Progress Administration. From the Library of Congress’s collection: “By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943″

I’ve heard a lot of conversation about a leaner (and perhaps more meaningful) Christmas this year. Newspapers are filled with tales of the uncertain economic climate, and the connections between the economy and the nature of family, community, and national celebrations. A recurring message in the media is that our holiday traditions and expectations require revision in light of the reality of banking disasters, unemployment, rising prices. Whatever the reason, Dickens and the notorious Scrooge are receiving a lot of press.

santa

Chicago Daily News negatives collection, DN-0001069. 1902 photo, courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society, included in Library Of Congress American Memory, online historical collections.

Dickens suffered humiliation at age twelve, when his father was sent to debtors prison. He wrote A Christmas Carol to raise public awareness of England’s poor, especially children. One recent article I read stated, “And today, in the midst of the worst economy in more than 50 years, his story gains new resonance.”

Dickens deserves credit for popularizing the elements that define a traditional Christmas, like roast turkey and mulled wine, and as one article put it, A Christmas Carol “set the tone for Christmas as we know it today: a season of generosity, feasting, and merriment.” Dickens’ legacy also includes an awareness and focus on sharing with people in need. Scrooge embraces the spirit of generosity, and has been an example since 1843. Les Standiford, author of The Man Who Invented Christmas was quoted as saying, “When you walk out of a store at Christmastime this year and see someone standing there beside an iron pot and clanging a bell, make no mistake about it. That is really Charles Dickens standing there, reminding you of the right thing to do.”

For further reading:

xmasInventing Christmas: How Our Holiday Came to Be

 

 

 

battlechristmasThe Battle for Christmas

 

 

 

 

-Julie

3 Comments

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3 responses to “The Man Who Invented Christmas

  1. MA

    Julie this is a wonderful post! I never stopped to think about the impact that Dickens had on the ‘traditional’ side of Christmas…how neat!

  2. In Santa Fe at the New Mexico Museum of Art we have a Christmas tradition dating to 1931 when Gustave Baumann began performances of the hand carved wood marionettes he created. The performanced continue to this day and are an integral part of the Santa Fe Christmas tradition. The puppets used today are exact copies as the originals became too fragile. However, at the end of January the newly restored marionettes will go on display. The plays written by Baumann and his wife Jane always had some social commentary as do those today – although geared more toward an audience of children.
    Steve Cantrell
    PR Manager, NM Dept of Cultural Affairs

  3. Hello, Steve, and thanks for commenting! We actually have a few books in the collection on Baumann’s work (one example), so I’ll have to flip through to learn more! If you have any links to share, please feel free to e-mail them to us @ eleventhstack@carnegielibrary.org

    Leigh Anne

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