Puritans had made things bad for Christmas, both in England andthe United States, writes Standiford. Thanks to the preaching of the Puritans and the legislative efforts of Oliver Cromwell andother Puritans in Parliament, "by the late 1700s the holiday hadbecome a pale shadow of its former self, cloaked in piousness."Standiford seems to lament that the merry-making and the orgieshad all but stopped, replaced by solemn and sanctifiedcelebrations.
Enter Charles Dickens and his "little Carol" to rescue Christmasfrom its "religiosity" and return it to its pre-Puritan status of revelry and merriment. Thanks to the influence of "A ChristmasCarol", many of "the decorative elements and amusements" of the holiday were "given a fresh gloss", making their return toChristmas celebrations:
[B]lazing fireplaces, mince pies and wassail bowls, carol-singing,plum puddings, holly sprigs, mistletoe, fiddling and dancing, blind-man bluffings, and the parlor game of forfeits had been seen inholiday festivities previously, but the effect of Dickens's tale wasto make the incorporation of such elements seem obligatory foranyone's proper Christmas.
"Charles Dickens", writes Professor Standiford, "played a majorrole in transforming a celebration dating back to pre-Christiantimes, revitalizing forgotten customs and introducing new onesthat now define the holiday", and thus "singlehandedly createdthe modern idea of Christmas."
In reading Standiford's history of "A Christmas Carol", if notDickens's book itself, one sees more clearly the humanisticunderstanding of salvation that is presented there. "A ChristmasCarol" succeeds as a pagan alternative to the Nativity, and assuch presents an alternative to the gospel itself: the story of JesusChrist, his birth, sinless life, atoning death and bodily resurrection.Standiford aptly summarizes Dickens's gospel:
[He] complemented the glorification of the nativity of Christ witha specific set of practices derived from Christ's example: charityand compassion in the form of educational opportunity, humaneworking conditions, and a decent life for all. Just as vital as thecelebration of the birth of a holy savior into a human family wasthe glorification and defense of the family unit itself.