I just finished watching the movie: The man who invented Christmas. This got me asking the question: Did Charles Dickens played any real role in renewing (reviving) the spirit of Christmas (in the Christian sense) in modern times.
If so, what influences did he produce in doing so?
Do any proofs of how he influenced a possible renewal in Christmas exist?

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843.

As a young man, Charles Dickens expressed a distaste for certain aspects of organised religion. He considered himself a Unitarian.

What was Christmas really like where Charles Dickens lived in London, England in the 1840s? (This was some two hundred years after Oliver Cromwell tried to help ban Christmas!)

  • Are you asking about "The spirit of Christmas" in a Christian sense? He certainly influenced Christmas customs. Oct 27, 2022 at 1:12
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    there's a chapter about Dickens and Christmas in G.K. Chesterton's biography of Charles Dickens
    – Peter Turner
    Oct 27, 2022 at 13:25
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    The reason I think it's a bad fit here is that how Dickens influenced the celebration of Christmas is only peripherally related to Christianity. While that may seem odd, but whether people eat goose or turkey, or whether they associate Christmas with snow, or get together with family, are not actually part of the Christian religion. Oct 27, 2022 at 15:33
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    @DJClayworth Since when can local customs not be Christian customs or traditions?
    – Ken Graham
    Oct 27, 2022 at 15:49
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    @djc, I supremely and vehemently disagree with that sentiment. All those things are part of Christianity. They were the things that the Puritans put a stop to (or would want to stop if they'd existed then), if they weren't part of Christianity to begin with (for good or ill), they wouldn't have been worth stopping.
    – Peter Turner
    Oct 27, 2022 at 16:24

1 Answer 1


Christmas was still an issue in 19th c. England, but it had come a long way from Cromwell's day, when gift-giving on Christmas was punished by a stiff fine, equivalent to $8000 in today's money. In the 18th century, Calvinists still tended to view it as a popish celebration. Puritans believed that the only Holy Day should be the Sabbath. Rather than encouraging children to behave well to please Santa Claus, Christmas could have the opposite effect in terms of drunken revelries and carousing. In New England, meanwhile, Christmas was still outlawed in Dickens' day.

By the advent of the Victorian Era in the 19th century, things had changed in England. The Oxford Movement in the Anglican Church revived traditional religious celebrations associated with the Christmas season. Christmas cards, gift-giving, caroling and Christmas trees all became popular. Railways enabled people to travel more easily during the holidays to be with their families, and shops did a brisk business in Christmas-related goods. The royal family celebrated the Christmas at Windsor Castle.

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As for Dickens, he may not have been an orthodox Christian but he was passionate in his opposition to Christian hypocrisy that led some to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. Scrooge was the encapsulation of this uncaring puritanical attitude, believing that "the poor you will always have with you" and that God had predestined to the Elect to wealth though the virtues of thrift and hard work. A Christmas Carol thus had the paradoxical effect of diminishing the moral basis of the Protestant work ethic while simultaneously celebrating the Gospel message of love for one's neighbor. Much to the dismay of some, it also contributed to making pagan festivities acceptable again. G. K. Chesterton wrote:

"In fighting for Christmas [Dickens] was fighting for the old European festival," since the winter celebration was "one of numberless old European feasts of which the essence is the combination of religion with merry-making."

A Christmas Carol was hugely popular. It was first published on December 19, 1843 and had sold out by Christmas Eve. By 1844, it had gone through 13 printings. Like today's most popular movies, it also spawned many pirated editions so that Dickens did not profit from sales as much as he should have. There is little doubt that his book was the most important literary factor in the revival of Christmas in England.

To a great extent Dickens rode the the Victorian Age's Christmas wave. But he also urged it on to powerful effect.

  • As an aside, if you are a student of film you can compare the story as written with the many film versions.
    – EvilSnack
    Nov 13, 2022 at 22:35
  • So... no expertise in film. Nov 14, 2022 at 13:41

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