I think most of us, regardless of faith, find it difficult to make it through the holiday season without watching at least one version of A Christmas Carol. The warmth and spirit of this classic are such that they transcend class, culture and belief to simply bring a smile to our hearts.
But there are a couple of things that many of us don't realize, both the impact that that the story had on us and the impact that the writing of it had on the author. I hope that you will enjoy learning a few of these little facts.
When Charles Dickens sat down to start writing A Christmas Carol he was not particularly in a holiday mood, or indeed a good mood at all. He and his wife were expecting their fifth child and finances were tight despite his great success as an author.
At that time an author often had to put up the money for the publication of a book and would only begin to gather profits once the costs were paid back.
His prior book Martin Chuzzlewit had been published in serial form but the sales had lagged and left him with lowered income. There was a large mortgage on his home and he was being pressed for money by many family members.
In the 19th century it was not uncommon for a successful person to support both his own family and those of his siblings, cousins, etc.
So when he began to write it was not with great joy in his heart, but with a level of determination. He had been doing work to help the poor and had seen the suffering of those who lived in the many slums of London. He was determined to do something to help. Setting the story at Christmas was something of an afterthought as it was not nearly the holiday it is today (as I will discuss below).
But as he wrote, something took over in his heart and (in his own words) his soul. Like Scrooge in the book, Dickens was transported and transformed by the tale. He later said that he 'wept and cried' during the writing of the story but that it made his heart lighten with each page.
When he published the story he was determined to make sure that as many people as possible could read it so he made sure to set a low price (while at the same time making sure the quality of the book was as high as possible).
Thus he did not make much money off of the book, but the success of the publication helped to revive interest in his other books and he also made many tours of the nation and the world to read the story. These efforts secured his finances.
But he often said that if he never made a cent off of the book he would still have considered it a success.
As the book spread out around the world it also began to transform those who read it. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was not common to celebrate Christmas as we do today. Many conservative churches in both Europe and America considered it a sinful holiday (with some justification as it was mostly celebrated with drinking and parties) and they pressed to have celebrations banned.
In America the day was further burdened by it's British roots in the days after the Revolution.
But with Dickens the holiday began to transform itself from a day for drinking and parties to a day of family and love and giving. Around the same time Prince Albert brought many German traditions (such as the Christmas tree) to England after his marriage to Queen Victoria.
From there, Christmas took off to become the holiday we know today. Certainly still burdened by aspects of commercialism but for most of us a day to join with those we love and cherish, and a day for us to try and remember those who are less fortunate.
Of course for many of us there are also deep Spiritual aspects, the birth of our Savior and I share those beliefs. But I also share the view that if you believe in the spirit of the holiday, in the aspects of love and generosity that you are welcome at my Christmas table.
So let us remember Tiny Tim
God Bless Us... Every One !!
Merry Christmas to All