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Christmas, Ideology and Popular Culture$
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Sheila Whiteley

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780748628087

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748628087.001.0001

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The Invention of the English Christmas

The Invention of the English Christmas

(p.17) Chapter 1 The Invention of the English Christmas
Christmas, Ideology and Popular Culture

John Storey

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter takes the reader back to the 1840s, presenting a critical exploration of ‘The Invention of the English Christmas’ by the Victorian urban middle classes. Christmas was intended as both a celebration of the prosperity made possible by the achievements of the Industrial Revolution, and a recognition of the need to share that prosperity with those for whom industrialisation and urbanisation had not been an unqualified success. Father Christmas/Santa Claus does not feature in the key ideological text of the new invention, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The enormous popularity of the story of Scrooge's social redemption, not just as a novel but in theatre productions and public readings, made this the central text in the invention of Christmas. The promise of Christmas is a middle-class utopia in which exploitation and oppression can exist in harmony with deference and ‘goodwill to all men’.

Keywords:   English Christmas, Industrial Revolution, Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, Scrooge, industrialisation, urbanisation

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