‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’: A Glimpse of the Real Charles Dickens

‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’ tugged at my heartstrings in many ways...

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The Christmas holiday was really no big deal in nineteenth-century England. The British celebrated Easter, to be sure; but in the 17th century, Britain's sober Puritans had scorned the wild parties which characterized the Christmas season, and Christmas Day became at best a minor holiday. Only in some rural communities was the birth of the Christ Child widely celebrated.

It was in such a small rural community that the young Charles Dickens learned piety at his family table, and there that he first celebrated the Christmas holiday. But when he approached his publishers with the idea for A Christmas Carol, they were skeptical. “Why Christmas?” they asked, thinking that Britain's secularized public would not appreciate the story.

Boy, were they ever wrong! Dickens' A Christmas Carol has become one of the most popular holiday stories of all time. And now, New York City-based film distribution company Bleecker Street has just released The Man Who Invented Christmas – a humorous and heartwarming film about the real-life events which, with Dickens' vivid imagination, inspired Charles Dickens to write A Christmas Carol. Dickens' constant companions were his characters, coming to life and reshaping his agenda.


Portrait of the Writer

Despite his poverty during his difficult childhood, Dickens retained the virtue instilled by his loving parents. In The Man Who Invented Christmas, Charles' wife helps the viewer to recognize the strong character which guided his generosity – reminding her husband, “You give money to every beggar in the street.”

Indeed, as a father and as a husband, Dickens has a twinkle in his eye and a kind word for those he loves. Although he is sometimes distracted, pulled away by an urgent deadline, he loves his family and loves others.


A Troubled Relationship With His Father

Before Charles' father, John Dickens, was arrested and jailed for an unpaid debt of 42 pounds, he demonstrated for his young family a love for God and a respect for everyone he met. He taught his children that no one is useless in this world, if he lightens the burden of another. “Let this day be fragrant with the love we bear,” he said, “and may God bless us every one.”

Young Charles, forced after his father's imprisonment to work in a factory to support his mother and siblings, grew bitter. Later in life, he was brusque in his treatment of his father. It was the iconic Scrooge, the protagonist in A Christmas Carol, whose transformation by grace was mirrored in Dickens' own life, helping the author to forgive.

Scrooge had never made himself useful to anyone but himself. He had never felt love or joy, never took any pleasure in life; and facing death trapped in a deep hole, Scrooge cried out, “I don't want to die – not like this: alone, unloved, forgotten!”

And then the frightened Scrooge, the character forged in Dickens' imagination, shouted a message of hope, a message which rings true for all Christians: “No, it is never too late. It's never too late!” And the transformed old man pledged, “I will honor Christmas … and try to keep it all the year.... I may do some good before I die.” 


Scrooge Is Transformed – And So Is Dickens

Les Standiford, author of the book on which the movie is based, noted the similarities between the storyline of A Christmas Carol and Dickens' own life. In a recent interview, Standiford told TIME Magazine,

“It’s impossible to miss the correspondences between the plot of A Christmas Carol and Dickens’ relationship with his family and father. I would go far as to say that, in a way, Ebenezer Scrooge is a direct manifestation from Dickens’ fraught relationship with his father.”

The Man Who Invented Christmas tugged at my heartstrings in many ways: I couldn't help but tear up a little when Charles Dickens, restored to joy along with his character Scrooge, hugs his father and invites him back to his home for Thanksgiving dinner. I smiled when he offered a toast at his Christmas party, ending with his wish for “heaven at last for all of us.” He was a good man, indeed.

The Man Who Invented Christmas opens in theaters Nov. 22.