Christmas Traditions Are Rooted in Dickens’ ‘Carol’

Article ID: 597478

Released: 18-Dec-2012 4:45 PM EST

Source Newsroom: DePaul University

  • Credit: DePaul University/Jeff Carrion

    DePaul University in Chicago is home to a collection of the illustrated works of Charles Dickens that includes 1,000 volumes or rare books, early editions and memorabilia.

  • Credit: DePaul University/Jeff Carrion

    The idea of illustrating “A Christmas Carol,” according to Kathryn DeGraff at DePaul University in Chicago, is something that has continued through time. This first American edition from 1860 features the first illustration of the Cratchit family’s Christmas dinner.

DePaul University in Chicago is home to a collection of illustrated works of Charles Dickens

Newswise — CHICAGO — Since Charles Dickens published his iconic work, “A Christmas Carol” in 1843, the connection between Christmas and the author has left a lasting impression on how the yuletide holiday is celebrated in modern times. His story, which incorporated fellowship, merriment, song and the sharing of gifts with loved ones and with those less fortunate, has provided the groundwork for the traditions observed in today’s holiday season.

Dickens wrote the classic tale during a time in England when puritanical thought shunned a more outward and secular expression of the December holiday. In writing “A Christmas Carol,” Dickens incorporated social ideals that celebrated Christmas Day.

“In the story of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ we begin to see the restoration of Christmas traditions to Victorian England. Those traditions had been banned by the Puritans. You weren’t supposed to eat mince pie, you weren’t supposed to have a feast. It was a solemn day of churchgoing and observance of religious rituals and not all of the fun things that we associate with Christmas today,” said Kathryn DeGraff, an expert for DePaul University’s Richardson Library Special Collection and Archives.

DePaul is home to a collection of the illustrated works of Dickens that includes 1,000 volumes of rare books, early editions and memorabilia. DeGraff, who recently retired after 40 years of library service, has overseen the growth of the Dickens items and material since the original collection was donated in 1972.

Included in the collection is a first American edition from 1860, which rests on a pillow to protect the book spine from opening too wide. This edition features the first illustration of the Cratchit family’s Christmas dinner.

“The idea of illustrating ‘A Christmas Carol’ is something that’s kept on through time and as these illustrated editions have appeared, they have all focused on some of the many traditional values that are exemplified in the story,” DeGraff explained.

In addition to the rare editions of “A Christmas Carol,” the collection at DePaul includes memorabilia that demonstrates how the social ideals, family values and traditions that were reintroduced in the story of Ebenezer Scrooge have become a common element of popular culture. From decorative plates depicting Marley’s ghost, to children’s jigsaw puzzles and audio recordings, the famed Christmas story has been commercialized into a variety of seasonal products.

The Dickens collection is housed in the Richardson Library’s Special Collection and Archives at DePaul University in Chicago. More information is available at or at 773-325-7862.

A video is on YouTube at


About DePaul UniversityWith approximately 25,000 students, DePaul University is the largest Catholic university in the United States and the largest private, nonprofit university in the Midwest. The university offers about 275 graduate and undergraduate programs of study on three Chicago campuses and two suburban campuses. Founded in 1898, DePaul remains committed to providing a quality education through personal attention to students from a wide range of backgrounds.

NOTE TO EDITORS/PRODUCERS: If you are interested in shooting video of DePaul’s Dickens collection or interviewing Kathryn DeGraff for your holiday stories, please contact Maria Toscano to schedule before Dec. 20. Interviews would take place at DePaul’s Richardson Library, 2350 N. Kenmore, 3rd Floor, Chicago, Ill.


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