Dickens’ Christmas Impact

What would Christmas be today had Dickens never intervened? According to a Blog Post by David Parker on a UC Santa Cruz website, Christmas was actually in quite the decline at the time of Dickens’ writing. For although the poor continued to enjoy the company of family and attend to the merriment of fireside gathering in celebration of the birth of Christ, Christmas had actually become a rather unfashionable holiday for the wealthier in England. Upperclass individuals and gentry across England had throughout the Middle Ages and into the Commonwealth Era celebrated Christmas quite boisterously—with the slaughtering of livestock, alcoholic drinks, and large parties. However, by the time of Dickens, the gentry had gone through so many conservative religious movements and severe instances of illness (think Black death), that these types of social gatherings were at that time frowned upon.

Yet the poor persisted. They were undeterred by these changes, because their conception of Christmas had never been one of riotous exuberance, but rather simplicity and humility. Dickens, in portraying this form of Christmas to the upperclass in a way that they could still celebrate in capitalist grandeur (so much food), actually began to shape their opinion of Christmas and act more as their lower class counterparts did—with the humility and simplicity of the man they were supposed to be celebrating.

Unfortunately, Dickens may have had a bit too much of an impact on Christmas, because look at what we’ve come to. But it’s interesting to think that Christmas may not be a Western holiday at all had he not intervened.


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