Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" made the holiday what it is today

Dickens made Christmas what it is today
Dickens made Christmas what it is today 04:18

London – Anyone who's read or watched an adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" knows how Scrooge is changed through the events in Charles Dickens' classic story. But what's less well-known is how the book changed the celebration of Christmas itself — changes that crossed the Atlantic from England, and are still with us today.

London's ancient streets are crammed full of shoppers buying gifts for loved ones, but few here might realize that it was Dickens — a Londoner — who inspired it all. CBS News correspondent Imtiaz Tyab reports on this little known history from the British capital.

Dickens actually first set out to write a political pamphlet, legendary British actor Simon Callow, who's adapted Dickens for the screen and stage, told Tyab.

"Then suddenly he had his inspiration he would write not a piece about someone who was poor, but about someone who was rich, about a terrible miser, someone who lived entirely for money," Callow said.

Enter Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old man who is visited by four ghosts on Christmas Eve. The mystical journey convinces Scrooge to give up his selfish ways. He then lavishes a Christmas feast on the family of his long suffering employee, Bob Cratchit. 

It was Dickens' vivid descriptions of the delicious food served to the Cratchits, holiday decorations, and moral of "goodwill to all men" that became something of a blueprint for how Christmas is still celebrated over 170 years after the author's death, according to Louisa Price, the curator of the Dickens Museum.

"What Dickens did with Carol and his subsequent Christmas writings was really establish it as a significant festival within the country. And something that everyone would celebrate," Price said. 

A Christmas Carol's message of redemption continues to be a gift that keeps on giving.

"I don't think he'd be at all surprised," Callow said. "He was fully aware of the excellence of his work."