The Origins of Scrooge

 

Every year around this time, thousands of people pull A Christmas Carol off their shelf, dust off the cover, and sit down to read. And why not? After all, it’s the Christmas classic upon which all other Christmas classics stand.

As you know, A Christmas Carol is the delightful and touching story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserable old miser who undergoes an incredible transformation. It’s a timeless story … and it’s also the source of many of our most cherished holiday traditions.

We, at DataView Tax Service, Inc., hope the following makes your Christmas that much better!!
 


Dickens Saves Christmas

 

Have you ever wondered where we get our Christmas traditions? Why do we put up a tree? Why do we sing Christmas carols? Why do we give gifts? Most of these answers lay in one of the most popular books of all time, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

Most people aren’t aware that Christmas, as we know it, was once almost extinct. For a period of about 15 years, from 1645 to 1660, the Puritans successfully passed laws that literally banned Christmas in England. Mince pies, mistletoe, holly, and other Christmas staples were outlawed, along with Christmas caroling and public celebrations. This sentiment extended across the Atlantic as well. Many of our country’s first settlements frowned upon excessive celebration at any time of year, and especially at Christmas. Celebrations returned in England after the ban was lifted, but the excitement surrounding the holiday had declined.

For the next century the holiday’s popularity steadily decreased. By the 1800s only the wealthiest still celebrated Christmas. Most people were simply not able to celebrate. The world was in the beginning of the industrial revolution, workers worked long hours for low pay, and since most employers wouldn’t sacrifice a day of work, people just didn’t have time. Additionally, the overall cost of hosting a celebration full of feasting and gift giving was just too expensive. More and more frequently, the only jobs to be found were in the cities. Many people left their traditional country lifestyles and flocked to the cities, leaving many of their traditions behind.

It’s not hard to see where Dickens got the inspiration for Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit.

In October, 1843, Charles Dickens was visiting his sister in Manchester. Dickens was touched by the spirit and enthusiasm of his sickly nephew, who is presumed to be the inspiration for Tiny Tim. Dickens was struck with the idea for the story and almost immediately went to work. He wrote at a feverish pace and finished the entire story in six weeks. Three weeks later, on December 19, the book was published. The book was an instant success. All 6,000 copies of the original printing were sold in four days. Within six weeks, the story had been adapted for the stage and shows were already in progress. The show ran consecutively for over forty nights before transferring to New York’s Park Theater. By May, 1844, the seventh edition of the book had already sold out.

The story was both a literary and a social success. It’s credited with playing a major role in reviving (and reinventing) the Christmas holiday. WithoutA Christmas Carol, we wouldn’t have the phrases “Bah! Humbug!” or even “Scrooge.” Dickens took outdated Christmas traditions and infused them into his tale, making them feel as if they had always been a part of our Christmas traditions. For example, caroling was not common at the time, but Dickens added this activity to the story as if it were common to meet a traveling choir during the holiday season. It wasn’t.

While less obvious, but perhaps more significant, Dickens’ portrayal of a Christmas celebration was vastly different from the norm of his time. Typical celebrations during the era were normally community celebrations in churches, taverns, and town halls. Dickens’ representation was much different. He shows the Cratchits gathered together, celebrating as a family. This is perhaps the single biggest change that Dickens had on Christmas traditions, turning the holiday into a small, intimate, and private family affair. This change allowed for every family to celebrate according to their means. If they were wealthy, they could hold a feast. If they were poor, they could gather together, sing songs, and share stories, while enjoying the holiday in accordance with their means.

It’s probably incomprehensible for most of us to think that the holiday we know and love almost became a footnote in the history books. Were it not for the influence of Charles Dickens, our celebrations might be vastly different, if they existed at all. For me, and I expect many of you, Christmas is my favorite time of year, and I can’t imagine my life without it.

God bless us, everyone.


From all of us here at DataView Tax Service, Inc., we wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. I hope you enjoyed this look at the origin of many of our most popular traditions—and maybe now you’ll see A Christmas Carol in a whole new light.  

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