Man who made Christmas

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2011, 12:00am


Many book lovers would probably name Charles Dickens as the world's greatest novelist. Few novelists before or since have written such a wide range of stories that readers all over the world have read and enjoyed for so many generations.

Between 1836 and 1870, Dickens wrote nearly 20 novels, many of which are as widely read now as they were in Victorian times. They have been adapted for cinema and television many times, and translated into many languages.

They offer one of the most realistic views of life in Victorian England we have today.

Dickens 2012

Next year will see an international celebration of all things Dickens to mark the bicentenary of the writer's birth, on February 7, 1812. The organisers of Dickens 2012 are planning events all over the world, with at least one major Dickens movie hitting cinema screens.

Yet apart from writing brilliant stories, many people consider Dickens did one thing that was more important than any of his books. He made Christmas the popular celebration that it is today.

A Victorian Christmas

Christmas festivities as we know them today began in London in the middle of the 19th century - and much of that was thanks to Dickens.

At the beginning of the Victorian age, Christmas was not a big event. Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, brought the German custom of decorating the Christmas tree to England, but it was only aristocratic families who copied the Prince's idea.

The first Christmas card was sent in the 1840s, but again the idea didn't take off until something amazing happened in the year 1843. That was the year Dickens published a story called A Christmas Carol.

A Christmas Carol

Dickens published his novels in individual chapters that people bought each month from newsstands. In 1843, sales of his latest story Martin Chuzzlewit had not been good, and Dickens was short of money. He decided to write a story set at Christmas time about a greedy old man who is turned into a good and generous person by the spirit of Christmas.

The book was full of Christmas feasting, carol singing, plum puddings, and roasting chestnuts, and it all ended with the carving of a fat goose.

A Christmas Carol first appeared the week before Christmas 1843, and it was a massive hit in both England and America. Readers wanted to have a Christmas like the fictional one Dickens described. From then on, December 25 would never be the same again.

Fact File

Are these statements about Christmas and Charles Dickens true or false?

1 Charles Dickens was a novelist during the reign of Queen ElizabethII.

2 Dickens' novels have never been made into films.

3 Next year will mark the bicentenary of Dickens' birth.

4 Dickens' novels are still popular all over the world.

5 Queen Victoria's husband popularised the Christmas tree as part of Christmas celebrations.

6 The first Christmas card was sent during the reign of Queen Victoria.

7 Christmas was not popular until Dickens wrote about it in his novel AChristmas Carol.

8 The central character in AChristmas Carol is a miser called Scrooge.


1. F, 2. F, 3. T, 4. T, 5. T, 6. T, 7. T, 8. T