In 1843, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was not only a wildly popular bestseller. In so many words, Dickens defined the modern definition of Christmas in Britain and especially in America. Practically overnight, A Christmas Carol re-introduced the English-speaking world to a holiday that had been largely forgotten for almost two centuries.
Ever since the ban on Christmas during the Cromwellian era, the holiday was looked down upon as an idolatrous Catholic vice. Even in America, only Anglican Virginia and outlying German Lutheran and Catholic settlements on the frontier really celebrated it.
Dickens’ work practically re-oriented the holiday from its more religious underpinnings to a secular, family-based celebration of comraderie and goodwill. Even the most dour Calvinist couldn’t argue with those sentiments. As the novel became popular, the markings of the celebration as noted on the pages–gift-giving, trees, pine wreaths, holly, carols, food, etc.–started to sprout in Britain and the United States (Puritan New England was slower in adopting it: many parts of the region wouldn’t allow Christmas celebrations until the 1870s.)
Thus, the holiday we see today comes almost directly from this 1843 novel.
Like any popular story, A Christmas Carol has been adapted for stage and screen numerous times. The version attached today is among the best. This 1971 animated film won the Academy Award for best animated short film: the only version of the story to be honored with an Oscar. Directed by Richard Williams and produced by legendary animator Chuck Jones, the film’s style is lifted almost directly from 19th century illustrations, as well as 1930s illustrations of a popular reprint. The tone is sufficiently dark to suit the somber Dickensian world of mid-19th century London: you can smell the smog and misery.
I think its among the best adaptations of the story around. The mood of the story is sufficiently dark and upbeat to satisfy all audiences–but particularly older students. This definitely lends itself to discussions of Victorian society, values, social welfare and government policies to the less fortunate.
Or it just could be a great Christmas yarn (which it is). You can decide. Enjoy.