Re: [liturgy-l] A Dickens Christmas
- Ex Anglican, but your synopsis seems good. I have been getting a lot of things lately on this, and something that seems to be the common theme, was that Charles Dickens stories were a major factor into turning Christmas in to more of a family event. Not just, A Christmas Carol, but also Nicholas Nicklebey, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and the Haunted Man and the Ghosts Bargain. If I recall correctly, Christmas as a family affair might be showed in one or two other novels as well.
Shalom b'Yeshua haMoshiach +Mar Michael Abportus mjthannisch@... Pastor, Congregation Benim Avraham http://www.freewebs.com/childrenofabraham/
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La Porte, TX 77571 281-867-9081 (home)
--- On Wed, 12/15/10, Frank Senn <fcsenn@...> wrote:
From: Frank Senn <fcsenn@...>
Subject: Re: [liturgy-l] A Dickens Christmas
Date: Wednesday, December 15, 2010, 9:14 AM
OK, here's a topic for discussion that might add some amusement and maybe even a bit of enlightenment on this list.
I have seen whole villages (e.g. Galena, IL, Skaneateles, NY) in which the townspeople dress up like Victorians and characters out of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. On Sunday at my adult forum we're going to have a roundtable discussion on how Dickens' tale has influenced our Anglo-American view of Christmas. We have a literary critic who wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Victorian novels and some others in the congregation who will participate. I want to add something about the social history of Christmas that Dickens reflected and contributed to. I'm not necessarily an expert, but I can wing it.
So, here are some of my assumptions. England in 1843 was a Protestant country of a mildly Calvinist character. Probably worship on Christmas morning in most places was Morning Prayer with sermon. Christmas as a liturgical observance was a rather chaste affair in England in comparison with the extravagances of continental Catholic countries or German Lutheranism. But in 1843 this was in the process of changing. Prince Albert brought German customs, like the Christmas tree, into Buckingham Palace. The populace (especially the rising middle class) emulated Victoria and Albert. The Oxford Tractarian and Cambridge Ecclesiological movements were also gathering momentum to retrieve late medieval customs and ambience, or what they romantically conceived those customs to be. And, of course, consumer capitalism in expanding urban areas was in its infancy, and with it organized charity. Christmas was perched to take off in 1840s England. Maybe it
would even created a holiday for poor underpaid workers like Bob Cratchet. (Was Scrooge an old Calvinist resisting "progress" in terms of how the holy day/holiday was being celebrated?)
My argument will be that Dickens plugged into the changes occurring in the celebration of the holy day/holiday and, through the popularity of his tale, even contributed to these changes.
How do you Anglicans, real or imagined, on this list, respond to these assumptions? Do you affirm them, challenge them, or see a need to tweak them?
Frank C. Senn
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Basically correct, but I'd nuance: Christmas, along with Good Friday
(and Easter, to some extent) was a communion day in many (most?) places
with resident clergy. However, it was a dour day with what sermons I've
seen centering on "Jesus was born so that he could die" rather than
"Jesus was born out of God's love to be with us". Throughout much of
England, it would not have been a day off of work. Incidentally, that's
why Scrooge could send the boy out to buy the goose without any real
sense of irony.
Without chasing down the footnotes, I think you can point to the Wesleys
for starting the trend toward "modern Christmas," and while a good part
of this is just a recovery of the incarnational focus for the day, it is
also a result of their work with the poorer people. Given Dickens'
ecclesial affiliations (he was associated with Kingsley and the
Christian socialists, but not particularly with the slum priests of the
Cambridge movement), I think it would be worth seeing a battle between
main-stream cultural Anglicanism of the middle and upper middle classes
(Scrooge) and the non-conformists (Cratchitt).
Also, I'd want to argue that "A Christmas Carol" is not about Christmas,
but was just another part of Dickens' commentary on the social
inequalities of the day. I've got a vague memory that it sold much
better in the US than in England, because the US was in one of its
regular searches for roots, and glommed onto the sentimentality rather
than the message.
- This would also be true of the seasonal showing of "It's a Wonderful Life". Despite it's release before Christmas in 1946, the movie isn't about Christmas as much as it is about the worth of the individual to society.
Mark J. Bliese
Saint Louis, Mo.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: email@example.com
> [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Walter Knowles
> Sent: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 10:47 AM
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: Re: [liturgy-l] A Dickens Christmas
> Also, I'd want to argue that "A Christmas Carol" is not about
> Christmas, but was just another part of Dickens' commentary
> on the social inequalities of the day. I've got a vague
> memory that it sold much better in the US than in England,
> because the US was in one of its regular searches for roots,
> and glommed onto the sentimentality rather than the message.
> Walt Knowles
> Kirkland, WA
On 12/15/10 11:47 AM, "Walter Knowles" <wrknowles@...> wrote:
think it would be worth seeing a battle between main-stream cultural
Anglicanism of the middle and upper middle classes (Scrooge) and the
I'm an enfant terrible on the ANGLICAN-MUSIC list because I rail and rant on
about the muzakification of Anglican liturgy with carols.
Here is my version of A Christmas Carol.
Gather round, children. It's that special time of year. Uncle Doug is going
to tell you a Christmas story that he found in a collection of 15th century
English sermons ...
The Story of the Damned Carolers
Once upon a time, there was a band of singers who loved to sing carols.
They sang them everywhere: in their homes, in the shops, in the streets.
Once the first bells of Christmas Eve had sounded, they were everywhere.
They would join hands and dance in a circle as they sang the chorus of
³Nowell!², stopping only to hear their best singers sing a verse from the
middle of the circle.
Every year the parish priest would warn them not to come to near the
churchyard, for it was a grave sin to sing carols in the graveyard and
certainly never in the church! But on that fateful Christmas, the carolers
danced among the parishioners as they walked to Midnight Mass.
³Nowell!² they sang louder and louder, and soon they were dancing in circles
around the very graves of the churchyard.
The horrified parishioners hurried into the church and closed the door. They
covered their ears as the Midnight Mass began. The great tower bell sounded
and then stopped, its tone lingering in the candle-lit church. The people
looked at each other.
There was only silence.
Where were the carolers?
The wardens took their staffs and peeked out the door. The carolers were
gone forever! For their terrible sin they had been banished to hell.
But every year, they say that when you close the church door for Midnight
Mass, you can still hear the carolers outside singing their sad ³Nowells²
and condemned to dance in circles for all eternity for their terrible
And that is why, dear children, we must never, EVER, sing carols in church!