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Stephen Tompkinson in A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Stephen Tompkinson in A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

8 things you didn’t know about A Christmas Carol

Eleni Cashell

By Eleni Cashell Published 20 December 2018

It’s a Christmas classic that’s been reimagined, turned into a musical, shown in the West End without fail every year and is usually responsible for kick-starting that festive feeling!

Think you know everything about Charles Dicken’s tale? Think you know more about Scrooge than Jacob Marley and the three Christmas ghosts put together? Think again.

Here are eight things you didn’t know about A Christmas Carol…


Dickens performed it first

Charles Dickens sounds like a budding thespian to us, as A Christmas Carol was his first ever public reading in the Birmingham Town Hall on the 27 December 1852.

Dickens clearly loved to perform, and since his first reading was such a success, he repeated it just three days later! From then on he continually edited and adapted the story as a performance piece for several years.

Basically, he started the trend of putting on A Christmas Carol productions…sort of…


There have been over 20 film adaptations

Simon Callow in A Christmas Carol at the Arts Theatre

It seems like everyone has had a go at adapting A Christmas Carol. From Patrick Stewart, Tim Curry and Michael Caine, to the Muppets and Mickey Mouse, they’ve all put this classic story onto the big screen. In fact, there has been over 200 filmed versions to date!

But Kermit wasn’t the first to bring this classic tale to the cinema. The first ever Scrooge adaptation was called Marley’s Ghost, and it was a short British film made back in 1901 which lasts just six minutes!


It only took six weeks to write and perform

While we’ve waited several years for some literary classics to hit the shelves (the wait between each Harry Potter book was horrendous), Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in just six weeks! Putting that into perspective, in just over 1000 hours he wrote something that is still being loved by audiences 175 years later!

It then only took another six weeks after its initial publication to be adapted for the London stage. It ran for 40 nights before it headed off to New York! Even more astonishingly, within a year of the book being published, eight rival productions of the play were on in London!

“Bah Humbug” is only said twice

Stephen Tompkinson in A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

If someone asked you to pick any line from A Christmas Carol, chances are the phrase “Bah Humbug” would instantly spring to mind. It’s Scrooge’s main catchphrase, right?

Wrong. In fact, in the book, Scrooge only utters this miserable misery statement twice. Maybe he wasn’t as grumpy as we thought!..ok he probably still was…


It’s responsible for “Merry Christmas”

Can you imagine the festive season going by without saying or even hearing “Merry Christmas”? Well, A Christmas Carol made it happen. Dickens repeated the common festive greeting so much in his book that it caught on, became popular and is still said to this day!  What a trendsetter!


Scrooge isn’t meant to visit the Cratchits on Christmas Day

Rehearsals for LMTO's A Christmas Carol

Sorry to be a stickler here, but if a production of A Christmas Carol were sticking 100% to the original text, Scrooge wouldn’t visit his employee Bob Cratchit and his family on Christmas Day. In the novel, while Scrooge does wake up a changed man, he doesn’t knock on Bob’s door to prove it.

Personally, we love this theatrical touch to the story that’s become a part of the stage show narrative!


It wasn’t a huge financial hit for Dickens

Not at the start anyway.

Although the story sold out of its 6,000 initial copies pretty quickly, the costs of printing and producing the book in the first place was high, making it hard for Dickens to make any money from it.

The high costs were partly due to a commission arrangement between Dickens and his publishers, but also because Dickens liked his books to have a lavish and expensive format! He wanted the pages to be bound with fancy binding, gold lettering on the spines and covers, hand-coloured drawings and coloured title pages, amongst other things, and unsurprisingly that wasn’t cheap!

Real Scrooges changed their ways

Stephen Tompkinson and Frances McNamee in A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

It wasn’t just a theatrical impact that A Christmas Carol has had on the world, but also a financial one. Shortly after the book was published, there was a rise of charitable giving happening in Britain, and many believe this was due to how the story was making people feel. Dickens was transforming real-life Scrooges all over the UK!

Feeling all festive now? Why not book tickets to see a Christmas Carol?


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