A Christmas Carol


Charles Dickens

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on A Christmas Carol makes teaching easy.
Themes and Colors
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christmas and Tradition Theme Icon
Social Dissatisfaction and the Poor Laws Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Christmas Carol, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Christmas and Tradition Theme Icon

A Christmas Carol was published as a Christmas story, and takes the form of a Christian morality tale containing a moral lesson that the highly religious and traditional English population of Dickens’ time would enjoy. Its structure, with five “staves” instead of chapters, is a metaphor for a simple song, with a beginning, middle and end. Dickens uses the idea of singing to connect the story to the joyful Christian traditions of the season, such as caroling, while at the same filling it with more serious, politically-minded themes.

This theme has two aspects: Firstly, the festive, jolly Christmas atmosphere flourishes in the streets surrounding Scrooge’s company office, and the ethos of the nativity story is embodied in characters like Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, and Scrooge’s nephew – these characters are examples of goodness and charity, and show Scrooge the way to kindness. The love and strength of the Cratchit family despite their poverty shows the reader that the spirit of Christmas can defeat Scrooge’s spirit of misery. At the same time, Dickens uses the seasonal period around Christmas to highlight the sort of unfair and crushing poverty that the Cratchit’s face. The cold, bleak winter weather exacerbates the terrible privations poor families of the era had to face, and in presenting the poor in such extremes A Christmas Carol profoundly criticizes the laws, policies, and economic system that promote such poverty. In this way, by allowing Dickens to use the harshness of winter to portray the terrible difficulty of the life of the poor, Christmas served Dickens as a vehicle not just for showing Scrooge’s transformation but to appeal to readers’ Christianity as well in an effort to change a society that was organized in some ways that Dickens saw as being profoundly un-Christian.

Related Themes from Other Texts
Compare and contrast themes from other texts to this theme…

Christmas and Tradition ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Christmas and Tradition appears in each chapter of A Christmas Carol. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
How often theme appears:
chapter length:
Get the entire A Christmas Carol LitChart as a printable PDF.
A Christmas Carol PDF

Christmas and Tradition Quotes in A Christmas Carol

Below you will find the important quotes in A Christmas Carol related to the theme of Christmas and Tradition.
Stave 1 Quotes

'A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!' cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge's nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.
'Bah!' said Scrooge, 'Humbug!'

Related Characters: Ebenezer Scrooge (speaker), Fred Scrooge (speaker)
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:
Stave 2 Quotes

It was a strange figure-like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child's proportions.

Related Characters: The Ghost of Christmas Past
Related Symbols: Images of Age and Youth
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

'The school is not quite deserted,' said the Ghost. 'A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.'
Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed.

Related Characters: The Ghost of Christmas Past (speaker), Ebenezer Scrooge
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
Stave 3 Quotes

In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty's horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.

Related Characters: Ebenezer Scrooge, The Ghost of Christmas Present
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him in a baker's doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch.

Related Characters: Ebenezer Scrooge, The Ghost of Christmas Present
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage. […]Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it
was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so.

Related Characters: Bob Cratchit
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

'God bless us every one!'

Related Characters: Tiny Tim (speaker)
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:
Stave 4 Quotes

The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.

Related Characters: Ebenezer Scrooge, The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

'Ghost of the Future!' he exclaimed, 'I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?'

Related Characters: Ebenezer Scrooge (speaker), The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:
Stave 5 Quotes

'I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!' Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. 'The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh, Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees!'

Related Characters: Ebenezer Scrooge (speaker), Jacob Marley
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of houses, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk – that anything – could give him so much happiness.

Related Characters: Ebenezer Scrooge
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

'Now, I'll tell you what, my friend,' said Scrooge, 'I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,' he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again; 'and therefore I am about to raise your salary!'

Related Characters: Ebenezer Scrooge (speaker), Bob Cratchit
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis: