Les Standiford didn’t invent Christmas, but he knows who did


Charles Dickens self-published A Christmas Carol in 1843 in a desperate attempt to save his struggling writing career. The book not only turned him into a literary sensation but also revived the spirit of Christmas, helping to bring back the nostalgia and tradition that is still celebrated today.

Les Standiford (right) poses with actors on set of The Man Who Invented Christmas in Dublin, Ireland.

Thanks to FIU Creative Writing Program Director Les Standiford, we now know the story behind the story. In 2008, Standiford published The Man Who Invented Christmas, a historical account of how A Christmas Carol came to be. The book is currently being turned into a film starring Christopher Plummer as Scrooge and Jonathan Pryce as Dickens’ father. Dan Stevens, the actor who will star as the beast in Disney’s upcoming live-action Beauty and the Beast, will play the young Charles Dickens. Filming began this month in Ireland. It is slated for release during the 2017 holiday season.

“It’s extremely gratifying to have my book picked for adaptation,” Standiford said. “I hope audiences will come out of the screenings saying ‘Geez, that was interesting. I didn’t know half of that stuff.’ Hopefully they will want to seek out the book itself.”

In The Man Who Invented Christmas, Standiford recounts how three failed books left Dickens broke and distressed. Over the course of six weeks, he penned the tale of Tiny Tim and Scrooge hoping the book would keep his family financially afloat. But when the book was rejected by his publishers, Dickens decided to publish it himself. It was met with instant success and critical acclaim.

“What took me over was coming to understand Charles Dickens as a human being instead of a literary icon, along with the chance to re-appreciate the genius of A Christmas Carol,” Standiford said. “That no one had bothered to tell this story before continues to astonish me. I think it is very nearly as heart-warming a story as A Christmas Carol itself.”

Today, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge remains one of the most well-known Christmas stories ever told, with countless adaptations gracing televisions, movie screens and theater stages worldwide. From food and drink to the phrase “Merry Christmas,” it still influences how people celebrate the holiday. Even Scrooge’s signature line, “Bah! Humbug!” is commemorated each year on national Bah Humbug Day, which falls on Dec. 21 this year. With Standiford’s storytelling, we now know what inspired the man who reminded the world that the holiday season is the season of family, love and giving.

Contributing writing by JoAnn Adkins

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