Charles Dickens and the Christmas season

Charles Dickens 1812-1870

A Christmas Carol, a story aimed by a sensitive writer at spurring social changes in his native land, appeared in 1843. The industrial revolution brought new patterns of labor and work and  to the cities. Factories employed children as if they were machine parts. The human soul, under the stress of factory work, was wounded in new ways. Christmas seemed to Charles Dickens to be an opening to compassion. Merry Christmas!–still the standard holiday greeting in our English speaking United States–entered our culture’s lexicon with A Christmas Carol. The Salvation Army bell ringer beside a kettle outside the local market descends to us from Dickens’ Victorian England.

“A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew…
“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!”

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round–apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that–as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys….

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