Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without A Christmas Carol.
At the time Dickens was writing it, many of the time-honoured customs linked with Christmas were beginning to disappear. It is largely due to this book that we carry with us much of the imagery that is now associated with the traditional celebration and spirit of Christmas.
When it is said 'that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed that knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!', it is to the Christmas of Scrooge, of Bob Cratchit, of Tiny Tim, of Christmas trees and roast goose, of the triumph of philanthropy over self-interest and familial love over mercenary considerations that our thoughts turn. But Dickens' intention when writing the story was a far less sugary one. Its working title was The Sledgehammer - so serious was its intent to expose and revile social injustice and poverty.
Dickens suffered considerable hardship and poverty during his childhood - indeed, the Cratchits' house may be modelled on the small four-room house in Camden Town, London, where Dickens lived as a boy, and the character of Tiny Tim is echoed in Dickens' sickly youngest brother, who was known as Tiny Fred. It is a serious book as well as a sentimental one: when we contemplate Bob Cratchit's working conditions, when Scrooge is told that many would rather die than go to the workhouse, and we hear him respond, 'If they would rather die...they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population', the satire is hard hitting.
Public Domain (P)2007 Silksoundbooks Limited