This will be my last post of 2022! I want to share a book with you that I began reading on Christmas Eve as part of my Hygge Living Experiment (Cozying Up), that began in earnest in September of this year. I began following/practicing many of the Scandinavian traditions after my visit to Norway in 2019. I will have more of my Hygge Living posts in the NEW YEAR.
Since 2018, I have read a new book on Christmas Eve, as part of following the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod, which translates roughly to ” Christmas book flood,” in English. During World War II paper was one of the few things not rationed in Iceland. Because of this, Icelanders gave books as gifts and turned the country into book addicts to this day. A study in 2013, found over 50 percent of Icelanders read more than eight books a year and 93 percent read at least one! Since 1944, the Icelandic Book Trade has sent out a bulletin to each household in the middle of November, when the Reykjavik Book Fair starts. People use this catalogue to order books to give to their friends and family on Christmas Eve. After all the presents are opened everyone grabs a hot chocolate and cozies up to spend the rest of the evening reading their books!
The book I selected for Jolabokaflod, was Mr Dickens and His Christmas Carol, an historical fiction, by Samantha Silva. It is a fictional account of how Dickens was inspired to write his most famous book………and managed to re-invent Christmas in Victorian times. Dickens advocated a humanitarian focus to the holiday, which influenced aspects of Christmas that are still celebrated in Western culture…..such as family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing and games, and a generosity of spirit. At the time Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol,” he was already a rock star in the literary world. But, his book Martin Chuzzlewit, had been a complete failure and Dicken’s publishers were cutting his funds. He had to write something quick and in the six weeks working up to Christmas, he was driven to get a book done that would keep him and his growing family in the way they were accustomed to living. 6,000 copies of A Christmas Carol were sold in the two days before Christmas and another 6,000 copies were printed before the New Year. Mr Dickens and His Carol delves into Dickens family life and what things mattered to him. I loved the book and have now finished it. Now, I want to know more about Charles Dickens and his books! I have never read an actual Dickens book, only seen some of the movies! I have to remedy that!
“Merry Christmas” has been around for many years, the earliest known written use was in a letter in 1534, but Dicken’s use of the phrase in A Christmas Carol, popularized it among the Victorian public. “Buh, Humbug!” was introduced into the English language, as a retort for anything sentimental or overly festive! The name “Scrooge,” used to depict a miser, was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1982.
In the early 19th century, the celebration of Christmas was associated in Britain, with the countryside and peasant revels. It was disconnected from the ever increasing urbanization and industrialization taking place. A Christmas Carol was a mid-Victorian revival of the holiday and began a resurgence of the traditional rituals and religious observances associated with Christmastide. This included singing carols, and the newer customs of Christmas cards and Christmas trees.
Dickens also gave a lot of money to charities and was hounded by them to give more. Dickens was very moved to do something, following a visit to Field Lane Ragged School; an establishment set up for London’s Street children to be educated. Ragged Schools were charitable organizations dedicated to the free education of destitute children in working-class districts. Such children had been excluded, even from Sunday School education, because of their unkept appearance and challenging behavior. The London Ragged School Union was established in 1844 to combine resources in the city for providing free education, food, clothing and other services for poor children. Teachers, who were often local workers, used lofts, stables, and railway arches for their classes. There was an emphasis on reading, writing, arithmetic, and study of the Bible. It is estimated that 300,000 children went through the London Ragged Schools between 1844 and 1881. The Ragged School Museum in London, was once London’s biggest Ragged School. ( A post on that in the future) It reveals the real downside of a Victorian life!
After the writing of A Christmas Carol, donations to charitable institutions, from the wealthy, increased significantly.
I loved reading Mr Dickens and His Carol and would highly recommend it for bookclubs, especially in the month of December. Maybe, you can get interested in celebrating Jolabokaflod with your family too! What a great tradition to start off a New Year! Have a save and blessed 2023! Cady