A Christmas Carol
Next to the Bible, A Christmas Carol is my favorite book. Ever since I was a young man, I have read the book at Christmas time. In fact, as my children got older, I read it to them and this year, my youngest wants to help read it as part of his reading assignments in school (we home school). Many people do not know the story behind the story and how A Christmas Carol has affected the manner Christmas is celebrated today.
In the fall of 1843, Charles Dickens, a very famous novelist of the time, was facing a financial crisis. His latest books had only sold moderately well. Family bills were adding up and the mortgage was coming due. So one night he decided to take a walk along the river Thames. He happened to wonder into a rundown neighborhood of London. The streets were covered in garbage, the gutter had raw flowing sewage, and there were pickpockets and streetwalkers everywhere.
This brought back memories of his own childhood. When Dickens was 12 his father was thrown in debtor’s prison and he had to go to work at a shoe polish factory where he placed labels on tins of shoe polish 12 hours a day 6 days a week for just pennies.
Upon coming home, he came up with the idea of writing A Christmas Carol. He wanted to give the people hope again at Christmas time. He thought if he wrote about good cheer and goodwill for the people he loved, the people suffering in poverty as he had, that He could give them hope. I have told you in my caroling blog that in England and America celebrating Christmas was punishable by prison and fines. With the Victorian year starting, these laws were repealed because of Queen Victoria and her love of Christmas carols (please read that blog for more details). A Christmas Carol is credited as one of the biggest influences as to why the changes were made. If fact, the way we celebrate Christmas has a lot to do with what Charles Dickens writes in the book.
The problem with the idea is that he only had three months to write and publish this story. Therefore, he realized it could not be a full-length novel; it had to be a short little book. He began writing immediately. He also got very involved with the publishing and he even designed the cover. He insisted upon the gold stamp on the cover and a red and green title page. He also insisted that the book be cheap so the common man could afford it. These all proved to be great ideas because it was published on December 17, 1843, and all 6000 copies were sold out before Christmas Eve.
Dickens, in a newspaper article, said that little book changed his life. I will go on to say I believe A Christmas Carol has changed many lives. Dickens did not make much money on the book because it was sold so cheaply, but his later novels, such as David Copperfield, and Tale of Two Cities saw great success because of his newfound fan base the common person.
Most historians will tell you that this little book changed the way England and America has celebrated Christmas. Because of this book, the holiday changed from no one celebrating it because of fear of prison, to becoming the number one celebrated holiday in America.
I hope you all have a Merry Christmas this year and as Tiny Tim says, God Bless us, everyone.