Frazzled by the Holidays? Blame it on Charles Dickens!

by Anne R Allen

As we approach the frantic season known as “The Holidays,” I always ask myself, “Why do we do it?”

Why do I make fake snowdrifts around a dying tree in my sunny California living room and put plastic snow persons in my beachy drought-tolerant yard?

It’s all the fault of Charles Dickens. says the new movie, The Man Who Invented Christmas.

Mr. Dickens has a lot to answer for.

With the publication of his Christmas Carol in 1843, Charles Dickens single-handedly made Christmas our biggest cultural holiday. Before the debut of his (self-published) little novella, celebration of the holiday had all but died out in Anglo-Saxon Christendom. The pen is powerful indeed.

A Christmas Carol revived the custom of taking the day off work, gathering for big family feasts and getting generous with gifts—remnants of an ancient pagan solstice celebration which had been meshed with the Nativity story by some very clever early Christian marketers.

It was a great idea in Charles Dickens day. People were stuck in their houses and villages and a big feast day gave everybody a chance to gather for some convivial cheer at the darkest time of year. And the book is brilliant. Fantasy author William L. Hahn has a great post about the enduring appeal of A Christmas Carol on his blog this week.

But I think Charles Dickens and those early Christians would be appalled to see what the holiday has become. Every year it gets worse: travelers are stranded at airports for days…buried in snowdrifts while trying to buy last minute gifts…or imprisoned in grounded airplanes with nothing to eat but rationed packets of Cheez-Its.

All in the middle of flu season.

Okay, Aussies, Kiwis, Africans, and other inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere: you can ignore this rant or:

read on and chortle.


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