"A Christmas Carol" is a novella by Charles Dickens. It was first published in London by Chapman & Hall on 19 December 1843. The novella met with instant success and critical acclaim. "Carol" tells the story of a bitter old miser named Ebenezer Scrooge and his transformation into a gentler, kindlier man after visitations by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come.
The book was written and published in early Victorian era Britain, a period when there was strong nostalgia for old Christmas traditions together with the introduction of new customs, such as Christmas trees and greeting cards. Dickens' sources for the tale appear to be many and varied, but are, principally, the humiliating experiences of his childhood, his sympathy for the poor, and various Christmas stories and fairy tales.
The publication of three influential books spurred the interest among the Victorians for a nostalgic Christmas: Davies Gilbert's "Some Ancient Christmas Carols" (1822), William Sandys's "Selection of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern" (1833), and Thomas Kibble Hervey's "The Book of Christmas" (1837). That interest was further stimulated by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's German-born husband, who popularized the German Christmas tree in Britain after his marriage to Victoria in 1841. At this time too, the first Christmas card was introduced in 1843, and a revival in carol singing was undertaken. Hervey's study of Christmas customs attributed their passing to regrettable social change and the urbanization of England.
Dickens' "Carol" was one of the greatest influences in rejuvenating the old Christmas traditions of England, but, while it brings to the reader images of light, joy, warmth and life, it also brings strong and unforgettable images of darkness, despair, coldness, sadness, and death. Scrooge himself is the embodiment of winter, and, just as winter is followed by spring and the renewal of life, so too is Scrooge's cold, pinched heart restored to the innocent goodwill he had known in his childhood and youth.
The novella has been credited with restoring the Christmas season as one of merriment and festivity in Britain and America after a period of Puritan sobriety and somberness. "A Christmas Carol" remains popular — having never been out of print — and has been adapted many times to film, stage, opera, and other media.