- Our Town
Thank Dickens for saving Christmas
We all know that Christmas has been with us for 2000 years, but the way it has been celebrated has changed greatly over the ages. The most recent huge shifts took place during the time of Queen Victoria, and it was because of her Consort, Prince Albert, and their love of Christmas, combined with the writings of authors such as Charles Dickens.
Christmas had, before the Industrial Revolution, been celebrated in villages in rural England, think of songs like ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ which link Christmas to ancient, pre-Christian festivities. But in the 1800’s the move to urbanization had stripped those earlier traditions of their connection and meaning to many. The religious services on Christmas Eve and Day continued, but little else.
What did Dickens do? Through unforgetable characters like Ebenezer Scrooge, Dickens taught that Christmas should be a time of increased charity and compassion. He drew attention to the poor, and chided the wealthier ones, like Mr Scrooge, who did not share at this time of year. Interestingly, there were several years with snow at that time, unusual as that was. To this very day, those Christmas cards (oh, another Victorian invention!) show a snowy urban scene set in Victorian times.
Prince Albert brought his tradition of Christmas trees to England and America when a very famous photo of the Royal family around their tree with real candles was published in America in 1850. The new Christmas carols would stress the decoration of home and hearth and many that were popular then are still favourites now, such as God rest you Merry, Gentlemen.
So, take a big chair and cozy up to a fire with a copy of A Christmas Carol (free download) for a timeless treat. Graham Ritchie and Tina Neilsen were the readers at The Little Red Church and brought forth both tears and laughter with their usual excellence.