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Was Scrooge Conned?

It would be interesting to trace the tradition of the Christmas ghost story beyond the superficial (see below). I am sure it is related to the darkness and cold of the year and people huddled around a fire for comfort and warmth, but the association with Christmas and ghosts is incongruous - or is it?

Yes, there were pagan mid-winter feasts, but it's hard to see why they would emerge in the 18th and 19th centuries when ghost stories rose in popularity. Dickens is, of course, associated with the genre and wrote the quintessential Christmas ghost story.

Ironically, given its Christmas theme, God barely gets a look in in A Christmas Carol. There are only a dozen mentions of God - mostly in passing "God bless you"s or the singing of God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen. There is no mention of Christ, Jesus, or Saviour, and no one is seen going to church.

So, what we have is a ghost story trading on a secular commercial Christmas so that Dickens and his publisher can sell a few extra copies. Arguably, the values espoused in the tale are secular humanist values as well as Christian ones. Indeed, they express the most benevolent natures of Judaism and Islam.

Given this interpretation, it is a legitimate question to ask, "Was Scrooge conned?" Were the ghosts not merely accusing him of not spending enough money? Indeed, they were, but perhaps Scrooge was not really a miser, merely one who demonstrated more prudence and financial responsibility than those - with less money - around him.

Oh, dear. That sounds rather too familiar. (Would Scrooge have been a Keynesian, a follower of Milton Friedman, or Alan Greenspan?)

Was Scrooge not just suckered in to spending money and putting "Merry Christmas" on his lips in same facile was as those whom he so despised at the beginning of the story?

The ghosts express no Christian spirituality of Christmas, and many may even ask whether ghosts have a place in the Christian world - though Hamlet might have something to say about that.

In contemporary Britain, "the Christmas spirit" is akin to the other  great British evocation, "the Dunkirk spirit," and while harried shoppers may feel that Christmas has more to do with the latter than the former, it hardly seems to be what Christmas should really be about.

To get back to the ghosts.

A Smithsonian article sheds some light on the Christmas ghost story matter. And, some good stories and links can be found here:

The 7 Best Christmas Stories to Scare Yourself with This Year

Ten recommendations from the BFI

E F Benson's "Between the Lights"

Four other stories cited in "Ghosts on the Nog" in The Paris Review.

If those don't satisfy, why not try writing your own? In the last week or so, I've been disturbed by a forgotten image which just may be gathering accretions to form the germ of a tale. . . .

As for Scrooge, today he'd be complaining about how his business was being choked by Season's Greetings emails and how his staff was wasting time doing online shopping during office hours instead of foreclosing on the Cratchits, or doubling the mark up on the provisions for Mr Fezziwig's ball.

"Please, sir. May I have Boxing Day off to recover from the RSI incurred by my Christmas shopping?"


  1. Well, Tiny Time does say: 'God bless us every one.'
    But you have a point. For me, the most terrifying image is of the children cowering under the robes of Christmas Yet To Come. The girl is called WANT and the boy IGNORANCE, if I remember correctly (my copy is somewhere in one of those piles of books that appear when you attempt a pre-Christmas rationalisation of your library). The spirit then says something like: 'the boy is the more appalling of the two.' Chilling.
    So political then, rather than theological? And none the worse for that - although there will be too many adaptations over Christmas for comfortable digestion.


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