from Ray Cavanaugh at Christian Today:
A self-published book written in six weeks doesn't sound particularly auspicious, but when Charles Dickens is the author, magical things can occur. His 1843 novella A Christmas Carol-- with its transformation of old miser Ebenezer Scrooge following a series of ghostly visitations-- revivified Christmas with a sense of charity, making generosity fashionable and selfishness taboo (at least for the holidays).
It may be hard to imagine, but Christmas – now the world's leading holiday-- was far less culturally significant in the early 19th Century. Nor was it always a family-centred affair of gift-giving and wholesome sentiment. In fact, the cities of America's former British colonies would see gangs of young men invade the streets to engage in alcohol-fueled violence, pandemonium, and looting. And "similar scenes of riot and mayhem are recorded in Canada, Australia, Newfoundland, and Britain", according to Gerry Bowler's book Christmas in the Crosshairs, which adds that Christmas was "almost utterly ignored" in Scotland, and that the holiday in England was in a "long, slow decline, kept alive chiefly in the rural areas".
The sea change took place with A Christmas Carol, which was instantly popular. The complete first edition of 6,000 copies sold out within days of its initial date of publication, 19 December 1843, just a few months after the author, contending with a growing family and a dwindling bank account, first sat down to write the book.
His publisher had rejected A Christmas Carol, so the embattled scribe used his little remaining funds to print the book himself.