Why I Read It: I read A Christmas Carol every year; I figured I should know why.
Summary: The story of Charles Dickens and his amazingly enduring tale.
My Thoughts: The author states that Charles Dickens has been called "the man who invented Christmas" in the past, and admits that it might be a bit hyperbolic, but tells a pretty convincing story to that effect.
Nearly two hundred years removed from the origins of the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, we have more or less glossed over the story of its author, at least in relation to the details of his life as it concerned the writing of this book. Christmas is a beast, starting in late September each year. We don't stop to smell ancient roses like we should. But A Christmas Carol is one of them to which we should pay specific attention.
Dickens was struggling as a writer at the moment the idea hit him. Moreover, he had already dabbled in Christmas-themed stories before he penned this work, and would continue to do so for a few more years, never again reaching the same level of success. It turned out to be the perfect confluence of forces for him and, as it turns out, millions of readers living well into the future.
The underlying message of A Christmas Carol is charity, avoidance of greed, and it was published in a time, in 1843, when London was in dire need of such reflection. Life was tough, all around. There is probably a direct connection between the book's publication in late 1843 and the founding of the YMCA in the same city in 1844. As all -pervasive as Dickens' story was, it probably had at least a tangential effect on the Y's founders. Interestingly, the story comes with the ironic twist that Dickens was angered by the lacking paycheck he received from its first run.
A fun feature of this printing is that the book also contains the full text of A Christmas Carol, so we can seamlessly step from the Dickens story to the Scrooge story.
So, did he invent Christmas? No, obviously not. But he did help shape the holiday we celebrate today, helping to cement traditions we often inherit without much thought as to their origins.