As I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed yesterday, I came across this event: “Dickens of a Christmas,” which is an annual event put on by the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County. The event description reads, “Franklin’s Main Street and its beautiful Victorian architecture will be decked out for the holiday season. Some 200 characters, dancers, and entertainers will fill the street, including several from Charles Dickens’s stories interacting with the public. Expect to see the nefarious Fagin from Oliver Twist; Jacob Marley, Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim Cratchit with his parents from A Christmas Carol; and of course, a Victorian Father and Mother Christmas with treats for children. The English bobbies are actually on-duty Franklin police officers!”
Beyond this event being a nice local connection for us, it had me thinking about just how influential Dickens was in shaping our understanding of Christmas today. Although people associate Christmas with the birth of Jesus Christ, visualizing the feeling of Christmas spirit seems to be much more closely related to Dickens than anything. The image of a happy family gathered around a warm fire and eating a nice feast for dinner is very Dickensian, in addition to the ideas of celebrating family and giving back to the poor during this time of the year.
In this Tennessean article from the “Dickens of a Christmas” celebration last year, middle-school teacher, Teri Beck, who teaches A Christmas Carol to her students each year, said that the story still resonates with people because it teaches readers, “No matter how bad things get, you can always start over.” Dickens setting this positive message during the winter season that is usually cold and harsh brings some warmth and joy to this time of the year. “Christmas spirit,” the thought that this holiday inspires change in even the most cold-hearted people, is a lovely sentiment, and we probably owe a lot to Dickens for inspiring the warm and fuzzy feeling we get each year.