On 200th Birthday, There’s No ‘Bah Humbug’ for Charles Dickens

Dickens’ influence on the modern celebration of Christmas

Dickens’ works are full of morality tales about caring for the poor, the plight of child labor, the pitfalls of greed, and the importance of neighborly love. But what were the author’s own spiritual beliefs? International Dickens expert Elliott Engel has said Dickens’ writings did more to define current Christmas traditions than any other modern author.

 

 

‘Tis the season for “Bah Humbug” and “God bless us every one,” especially as the world caps off a year of celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the birth of novelist Charles Dickens.

Starting this weekend as the Christmas season begins with Advent, cities will transform their streets to Victorian English landscapes with strolling carolers and stage different productions of Dickens’ most famous yuletide work, “A Christmas Carol.”

Cities across the United Kingdom and France have major events planned, including a cemetery tour of Dickens family graves, festivals, museum exhibits and a Dickensian Market.

During the 39th Dickens on the Strand in Galveston, Texas, the city will hold a world record birthday card signing. San Francisco will host its annual Great Dickens Christmas Fair. The walking tour “A Dickens of a Tour: Charles Dickens in Washington” continues through December and celebrates Dickens’ visits to the U.S. capital.

Dickens’ actual birthday was Feb. 7, but celebrations continued throughout 2012, especially at Christmas.

Dickens’ works are full of morality tales about caring for the poor, the plight of child labor, the pitfalls of greed, and the importance of neighborly love. But what were the author’s own spiritual beliefs?

International Dickens expert Elliot Engel has said Dickens’ writings did more to define current Christmas traditions than any other modern author. We caught up with Engel, president of the Dickens Fellowship North Carolina chapter, to learn more about Dickens’ Christmas spirit.

Q: Was Charles Dickens a religious man?

A: He didn’t like the church much. He was a Unitarian because the Anglican Church offended him because of the hypocrisy he saw in it. Many of his novels satirize priests who he felt abused their positions in the church. He wrote a book for his children called “Life of Our Lord” because he believed the New Testament and Sermon on the Mount were the very best guidance for how to live. In it, he tells the story of Jesus in a way young people can understand.

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