“A Christmas Carol” is a story written by Charles Dickens in 1843. This story gained immense fame over the years; leading to many movie adaptions. A movie directed by Brian Desmond-Hurst, named Scrooge, is considered the closest in storytelling to the original literature (Desmond-Hurst, 1951). The tale follows the life of Ebenezer Scrooge, a rich miser with an obsession with doubling his money. His obsession is so great that he is unwilling to pay a living wage to his employee, Bob Cratchit. Near Christmas, Scrooge is seen looking down upon the Christmas festivities and is unwilling to donate to charity. Then at night, he is woken up by a disturbance in the house and sees the ghost of Jacob Marley, his equally greedy ex-partner. Marley warns Scrooge about his current behavior and advises him to change for the better but Scrooge refuses. Then throughout the night, he is visited by three ghosts, namely; Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present, and Ghost of Christmas Present. After witnessing his future, Scrooge is horrified and decides to change his ways. He then goes to his employee; Cratchit’s home bearing gifts and apologizes for his behavior. He changes and becomes a generous and thoughtful person (Dickens, 1812).
Before Dickens’ story, Christmas was not as festive as it became after the story. Dickens wrote this story in the Victorian Era and during this time many Christian leaders were skeptical of this holiday as they regarded it as a pagan tradition. Another reason for the lack of celebration was the lack of resources due to which many families could not afford to celebrate Christmas. Dickens’ book brought the right message of celebration regarding Christmas and painted the holiday as a charitable event where people became generous and helped the less fortunate. In the book, the Christmas spirit was presented in such a way that it fits the Christian perspective and it became so popular that it is now considered a Christian holiday (Wood, 2013). This spirit was aptly captured in the 1951, movie adaption where Scrooge became a generous man and brought gifts for Cratchit’s family, and joined in the festivities of Christmas. The movie was low budget but it was still able to capture the festivities of Christmas.
As previously mentioned, Christmas was not as celebrated as it is today because not only was it seen as a pagan tradition but people also did not have much time to spend in celebrations as they were busy trying to make ends meet. Many modern Christmas traditions are inspired by Dickens’ portrayal of Christmas. Though Scrooge’s change into a generous man, Dickens introduced the concept of exchanging gifts, grand feasts, and the overall merriment of the season. Dickens’s portrayal of Christmas brought color to this holiday and made it the most celebrated holiday of all times. In the 1951’s movie adaption the Scrooge’s character is played by Alastair Sim and he did an exceptional job at portraying the character. Scrooge is seen carrying a sack of gifts to Cratchit’s house towards the end of the movie and then joins the family for dinner. It is a humble celebration but it truly captures the spirit of Christmas.
Similarities to Today’s Celebrations
It was Dickens’ work that shaped up the Christmas that we celebrate today so there are a lot of similarities in the traditions. Ghost of Christmas past shows Scrooge numerous instances from his past including one in which he is enjoying a grand Christmas party thrown by Fezzwig, a merchant. Scrooge used to work as an apprentice for this merchant. When Ghost of Christmas Present appears; he is surrounded by a lavish feast that includes mince pies, turkey, various desserts, etc. Modern Christmas feast also includes these dishes. Exchanging gifts is also a practice that was inspired by Dickens’ view of Christmas as Scrooge takes a sack of gifts to Critchat’s home for his family. The sack full of gifts has now become a symbol for Santa Claus who carries gifts for good kids. Scrooge is also seen giving donations and in present times, it has been recorded that during Christmas, donations increase.
The 1951 film was not heavily funded but it captured the book’s depiction so well that it is considered a gold standard as compared to other adaptions of the book. The only difference that was seen was Sim’s portrayal of the character other than that the movie is as close to the original as it could get.
The Christmas culture portrayed is a humble and straightforward celebration of the holiday. It is free from the commercialized form of Christmas that is celebrated today and it captures the value of family in tough times as well. This story allows the readers to see the value of the family that one might spend time with during Christmas and the way family is everything. This sentiment is portrayed through the character; Tiny Tim who despite being extremely sick is just happy to spend time with his family. This story was written in six weeks and initially, Dickens wrote it intending to bring in money for his family as he was also struggling to make ends meet. But his view changed as he kept on writing this story and he, himself, understood the importance of family. He funded the publication of this book and sold it at five shillings apiece; this made it affordable for everyone.
Desmond-Hurst, B. (1951). A Christmas Carol (1951)—IMDb. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0044008/
Dickens, C. (1812). A Christmas Carol and Other Stories (1995th ed.). Modern Library.
Wood, K. (2013, December 19). A Christmas Carol: The Influence of Charles Dickens on Christmas Traditions. https://blog.bookstellyouwhy.com/a-christmas-carol-the-influence-of-charles-dickens-on-christmas-traditions