That is to say, quite literally transformed some of celebratory practices detailed in the novella into holiday staples, including many of the seasonal dishes we enjoy, as well as the prevalence of family gatherings, dancing, games, generosity, and the festive Christmas spirit.
Dickens managed this by leveraging a setting and tone that infectiously captured and more broadly popularized a revival of the Christmas holiday that was growing in Victorian English culture at the time.
Not only has it been adapted countless times for the stage and screen, in reimaginings and retellings, but it is also credited with traditionalizing many of the Christmas celebrations we enjoy today.
Writers of all kinds have much to learn from this holiday classic.
There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. Early in the tale, the streets are described as “Foggier yet, and colder.
Piercing, searching, biting cold.” The bleakness even follows the bleak character: “Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern.” The setting is as forbidding as the protagonist.
And unlike many complicated antiheroes and sympathetic jerks from fiction, he’s not particularly likeable either.
We all know, of course, that he decides to stop being a complete asshole at the end, and that the story is, at its core, about what leads him to that transformation.
Therefore we need what David Corbett recently called “the intimacy of insight.” In his piece on writing antiheroes and unlikeable characters, Corbett explains that “we tend to judge less harshly characters who look at themselves and their behavior clearly, honestly and in-depth.” The intimacy of insight gives us the window-into-the-soul required to realize that Holden Caulfield and Dexter Morgan are more than a whiny little shit and a serial killer.
Scrooge seems impervious to empathy and incapable of self-reflection at the beginning of the story. And the first words in the novella are “Marley was dead, to begin with.” (Heck of a way to start a cheery holiday tale, eh?