It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!
How many of you, this time of year, find yourself returning to that most classic of all Christmas tales, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol? Finding myself doing just that over the weekend, and enjoying that very particular Dickensian fuzzy glow (was there ever a more cheering passage written than this?… “And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!…), I found myself inclined to search far and wide for some more Christmassy magic from the great man’s pen…
While A Christmas Carol is Dickens’s most famous and influential piece about Christmas, it is certainly not his only festive creation. Apart from The Chimes and The Haunted Man which are often included in editions of A Christmas Carol, Dickens – prolific writer and journalist that he was – authored countless other articles, stories and verse in the subject for which he has become (rightly or wrongly) most famous.
With thanks to Dickens Journals Online, an incredible project founded and run by John Drew of the University of Buckingham, readers can now benefit from a free online catalogue of Household Words, Household Narrative, Household Almanac and All the Year Round, all edited by Charles Dickens himself. Amongst the great wealth of articles and stories is this charming number. It turned out to be just what I was looking for…
A Christmas Tree by Charles Dickens: Household Words, 21st December 1850
‘I have been looking on, this evening, at a merry company of children assembled round that pretty German toy, a Christmas Tree. The tree was planted in the middle of a great round table, and towered high above their heads. It was brilliantly lighted by a multitude of little tapers; and everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright objects. There were rosy-cheeked dolls, hiding behind the green leaves; there were real watches (with movable hands, at least, and an endless capacity of being wound up) dangling from innumerable twigs; there were French-polished tables, chairs, bedsteads, wardrobes, eight-day clocks, and various other articles of domestic furniture (wonderfully made, in tin, at Wolverhampton), perched among the boughs, as if in preparation for some fairy housekeeping; there were jolly, broad-faced little men, much more agreeable in appearance than many real men—and no wonder, for their heads took off, and showed them to be full of sugar-plums; there were fiddles and drums; there were tambourines, books, work-boxes, paint-boxes, sweetmeat-boxes, peep-show boxes, all kinds of boxes; there were trinkets for the elder girls, far brighter than any grown-up gold and jewels; there were baskets and pincushions in all devices; there were guns, swords, and banners; there were witches standing in enchanted rings of pasteboard, to tell fortunes; there were teetotums, humming-tops, needle-cases, pen-wipers, smelling-bottles, conversation cards, bouquet-holders; real fruit, made artificially dazzling with gold leaf; imitation apples, pears, and walnuts, crammed with surprises; in short, as a pretty child, before me, delightedly whispered to another pretty child, her bosom friend, “There was everything, and more.”
This motley collection of odd objects, clustering on the tree like magic fruit, and flashing back the bright looks directed towards it from every side—some of the diamond-eyes admiring it were hardly on a level with the table, and a few were languishing in timid wonder on the bosoms of pretty mothers, aunts, and nurses—made a lively realisation of the fancies of childhood; and set me thinking how all the trees that grow and all the things that come into existence on the earth, have their wild adornments at that well-remembered time.
Being now at home again, and alone, the only person in the house awake, my thoughts are drawn back, by a fascination which I do not care to resist, to my own childhood. I begin to consider, what do we all remember best upon the branches of the Christmas Tree of our own young Christmas days, by which we
climbed to real life.’
In case you haven’t already seen our glorious enhanced edition of the great work, be sure not to miss out. Featuring an original recording of Monica Dickens reading the story as as it was read to her by her grandfather, who in turn heard it from the author himself. Monica Dickens gave an everlasting gift to others by establishing the Samaritans on Cape Cod and the Islands in Falmouth, Massachusetts in 1977. This recording is the original radio version which has been enhanced by new music and engineering to honor them both. Proceeds will benefit Samaritan crisis lines, support groups for those who have lost someone to suicide, and community outreach programs.