Quote of the Day: Christmas & Charles Dickens

That Christmas when we had recently achieved so much fame; when we had been carried in triumph somewhere, for doing something great and good; when we had won an honoured and ennobled name, and arrived and were received at home in a shower of tears of joy; is it possible that THAT Christmas has not come yet?

What Christmas Is As We Grow Older, Charles Dickens

Origins of the Quote

These lines are from What Christmas Is As We Grow Older by Charles Dickens. It was originally published in the 1851 in the Christmas edition of Dickens’ journal ‘Household Words’.  What Christmas is as We Grow Older is an essay suggesting that Christmas should be a time of gratitude and forgiveness.

Dickensian literature is and has always been impactful to generations of readers. His ability to get to the heart of relationships and understand the driving force behind them. His stories are about families and the interpersonal bonds between people.  

The Person Behind the Words

At the beginning of the Victorian period the celebration of Christmas was slowing down. The medieval Christmas traditions had come under intense scrutiny by the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell. They were a combination of the celebration of the birth of Christ with the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia. Saturnalia was a pagan celebration for the Roman god of agriculture, also the Germanic winter festival of Yule. By Dickens’ time the Industrial Revolution left workers little time for the celebration of Christmas. This is something he addresses in David Copperfield as well as A Christmas Carol.

So the romantic revival of Christmas traditions that occurred in Victorian times had other contributors. Prince Albert brought the German custom of decorating the Christmas tree to England, the singing of Christmas carols (which had slowed at the turn of the century) began to thrive again. The first Christmas card appeared in the 1840s. But it was the Christmas stories of Dickens, particularly his 1843 masterpiece A Christmas Carol, that reawakened the joy of Christmas in Britain and America.  

After over 160 years, ‘A Christmas Carol’ is still relevant, sending a message that cuts through the materialistic trappings and gets to the soul of the holidays.

Dickens describes the holidays as “a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time. “The only time I know of in the long calendar of the year when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely and to think of other people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys” (Christmas Books, p. 10).

This was what Dickens described for the rest of his life as the “Carol Philosophy.”

Some Final Thoughts

Charles Dickens’ name had become so synonymous with Christmas that on hearing of his death in 1870 a little costermonger’s girl in London asked, “Mr. Dickens dead? Then will Father Christmas die too?” (Cited in Watts-Dunston)

This right here is the reach of the man. Aspects of his personal life are subject to debate and scrutiny. The details of his life are pieced together from documents and readings, the truth can not ever be known full as the owners are not here any longer.

But his ability to create a world of make-believe – gave his readers the ability to live through his stories. Much like the lights made by the Little Match Girl by Hans Christen Andersen.  

Check out our Quote of the Day archive where we bring you quotes hand picked by me, Divvya Nirula. Sharing the stories, people, moments behind the inspiration and thought provoking words.