The man who invented Christmas?
Some years ago, I spoke to the curator of the Dickens Museum, who told me that as Christmas approached, he would always be phoned up by journalists who wanted to talk about A Christmas Carol’s influence on the modern celebrations of the season. These journalists would know that, prior to Dickens, newspapers often didn’t even mention Christmas. And almost without fail, the journalists would comment: “So, you could say that Dickens was the man who created Christmas, couldn’t you?” It was as though every aspect of the season – turkeys, mince pies, mistletoe, present-giving and overall merriment - was down to good old Charlie’s portrayal of Scrooge’s spiritual transformation.
The trouble is, the idea of Dickens as ‘The man who created Christmas’ simply isn’t true. It would be more accurate to say that after A Christmas Carol, celebrating Christmas became fashionable, among all classes, and this is why newspapers started to publicise Christmas. But in rural areas, and among the working class, Christmas had been celebrated long before Dickens came along, and although some commentators had spoken of Christmas being in decline, there were still strong traditions of seasonal celebration.