English Literature: A Christmas Carol - Theme of The Christmas Spirit


Christmas brings out the best in people

  • Throughout ACC, Christmas is presented as a time when people "open up their shut-up hearts freely." Several characters in the novel demonstrate this Christmas spirit. They show generosity, charity, kindness and goodwill to others.
  • The Cratchits' Christmas celebration demonstrates their love for each other and their happiness at being together. For example, Bob in disappointed when his wife tells him that Martha isn't coming for Christmas Day - "Not coming!...Not coming upon Christmas Day!" - and he's relieved when she appears from her hiding place. It's very important to Bob that the whole family is together for Christmas.
  • Fred fully embraces the spirit of Christmas. He refers to Christmas as a "kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time" that brings out the best in people, and he hopes that Scrooge will embrace Christmas too. 
  • The Ghost of Christmas Present, with its "cheery voice", and "joyful air" personifies many of the values associated with Christmas. It's also a symbol of the transforming power of Christmas, it uses its torch to sprinkle incense over anyone who begins to argue, immediately restoring their "good humour". 
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The Christmas spirit involves kindness and generos

  • The charity collectors that visit Scrooge are a good example of characters who see Christmas as a time to help those less fortunate than themselves. They refer to Christmas as a time when "Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices." They'r etrying to provide some festive "Christian cheer" at a time when poverty is made most obvious by the excesses enjoyed by the wealthy.
  • Similarly, Fred believes that Christmas should encourage people "to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave". He thinks that Christmas is a time when all of humanity, rich and poor should unite and help each other, rather than carrying on their business as isolated individuals.
  • Fezziwig also demonstrates generosity and kindness of spirit. He has the power to render his apprentices "happy or unhappy", to make their work "light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil", and chooses to behave in a way that can only bring happiness. He throws a wonderful Christmas part for his employees and exhibits a contagious joy throughout.
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The Christmas spirit has both a religious and secu

  • A lot of what Dickens says about the Christmas spirit is related to his view of Christianity. For example, the values that Fred associates with Christmas (kindness, forgiveness and charity) are exactly the kinds of "Christian cheer" that Dickens associated with Christianity - he thought helping others should be an important part of people's faith.
  • However, for Dickens, Christmas also had a secular element - there's plenty of evidence of a non-religious celebration of Christmas. As Fred says, Christmas is "a good time", even "apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin".
  • A good example of the more secular celebration of Christmas is the childish excitement that surrounds it - particularly at Fred's house, where the family roar with laughter amidst music and games, and at Fezziwig's party. There are similar scenes at the Cratchi home, where the family delight in their small feast and shared companionship.
  • Dickens links the giddy, childish behaviour back to the religious side of Christmas by saying it's "good to be children sometimes", especially at Christmas when "its mighty Founder was a child himself".
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The Christmas spirit is powerful enough to transfo

  • At first, Scrooge's reaction to Christmas is "Humbug", and he thinks that anyone who celebrates Christmas is an "idiot".
  • Scrooge's attitude is ridiculed at Fred's party, and he is the only source of anger during the Cratchis' celebrations - he's referred to as the "Ogre of the family" and his name casts "a dark shadow" on the party.
  • By the end of the story, Scrooge is transformed by what he's learned about the Christmas sprit. He wishes everyone he meets a "merry Christmas", he makes a large donation to charity, he buys a huge turkey for the Cratchits, and he even attends his nephew's Christmas party.
  • Scrooge promises to "honour Christmas" in his heart and to "try to keep it all the year."
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The Christmas spirit should be maintained all year

  • The Ghost of Christmas Past carries winter holly, but wears a dress "trimmed with summer flowers". This could suggest that the sprit's lessons should be observed all year round, not just at Christmas.
  • The presence of the two children, Ignorance and Want, in the robes of the Ghost of Christmas Present are reminder that these problems will still exist once Christmas is over, and that people should remember those less fortunate than themselves at all times - not just at Christmas. 
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