Dickens and Christmas
by Lucinda Hawksley
Dickens and Christmas looks at the cultural change of Christmas leading up to the publishing of Dickens’ Christmas stories and after. It also gives a wonderful account of Dickens himself and how he saw the world.
I love Christmas time, but I have never been a fan of Dickens. I find his works dank and cold. Which I don’t find appealing when reading fiction. I will be honest. I grew up loving the 1938 version of the Christmas Carol (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1t_1rd9g3lM) and Disney’s Christmas Carol. Both of course are neutered versions of Dickens work. This book has me doing a double take on Charles Dickens. I had known that he had a bit of strife growing up, but had no idea to the depth and range of experiences he had at such a young age. Not that his work is not still dank and cold to me, but now I see it more of a time capsule into the life and times of Dickens and those around him. This book elaborates on that, and in particular, looks at the theme of Christmas in many of his books.
The beginning chapters focus on Christmas in the past including pagan festivities and how they were re-purposed by the church. Traditions such as Christmas cakes, decorations and giving alms to the poor are put in context of the original celebrations of the Twelfth-Night celebrations, etc. As the chapters go on, Dickens and his family are discussed in more detail. Also, his internal struggle with watching the world around him struggle with poverty and the inability to affect change, which lead to his most famous work. Each chapter has passages from his works as well as correspondence from Dickens himself and his contemporaries. All of which helps put the reader the frame of mind that Dickens was most likely in when composing his various works.
Dickens also seems to have help inspire a swelling of Christmas business in a time that old traditions were looking to be invigorated. Christmas cards, foods for feasts and just having the day off are all discussed here.
If you enjoy the Christmas holidays and history, regardless of whether or not you are religious, this is a wonderful book!
Dickens and Christmas is an exploration of the 19th-century phenomenon that became the Christmas we know and love today – and of the writer who changed, forever, the ways in which it is celebrated. Charles Dickens was born in an age of great social change. He survived childhood poverty to become the most adored and influential man of his time. Throughout his life, he campaigned tirelessly for better social conditions, including by his most famous work, A Christmas Carol. He wrote this novella specifically to “strike a sledgehammer blow on behalf of the poor man’s child”, and it began the Victorians’ obsession with Christmas.
This new book, written by one of his direct descendants, explores not only Dickens’s most famous work, but also his all-too-often overlooked other Christmas novellas. It takes the readers through the seasonal short stories he wrote, for both adults and children, includes much-loved festive excerpts from his novels, uses contemporary newspaper clippings, and looks at Christmas writings by Dickens’ contemporaries. To give an even more personal insight, readers can discover how the Dickens family itself celebrated Christmas, through the eyes of Dickens’s unfinished autobiography, family letters, and his children’s memoirs.
In Victorian Britain, the celebration of Christmas lasted for 12 days, ending on 6 January, or _Twelfth Night_. Through Dickens and Christmas, readers will come to know what it would have been like to celebrate Christmas in 1812, the year in which Dickens was born. They will journey through the Christmases Dickens enjoyed as a child and a young adult, through to the ways in which he and his family celebrated the festive season at the height of his fame. It also explores the ways in which his works have gone on to influence how the festive season is celebrated around the globe.