It is hard to imagine the holidays without the great English writer Charles Dickens. ‘A Christmas Carol’ is a seasonal standard and Dickens Fairs are popular winter attractions. Some historians claim that Dickens’ portrayal of Christmas as a secular, family-centered festival of generosity and merriment redefined the spirit of the season and influenced the way we observe the holiday in Western nations to this day. (Certainly the terms ‘Scrooge’ and ‘Bah! Humbug!’ have become part of our seasonal vernacular.)

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of Dickens birth, a special exhibit on his life, work and relationship with the city is on display at the Museum of London, and his home on Doughy Street was recently renovated and re-opened to the public. Both reveal the life behind the legend – and a remarkable rags-to-riches life it was. From debtor’s prison to child laborer to successful writer, Dickens used his experiences to create iconic characters and bring much-needed awareness to the plight of the poor and working classes. Dickens continued to be a champion for the poor throughout his life with his philanthropy and campaigns for social justice and reforms.

I have seen many ‘Dickensian’ traditions this season. Generous gifts of food, clothing and money make a great impact to many people and charitable organizations. The time families and friends spend together while baking, shopping, decorating, and playing games is time that is treasured. The family-centered festival of generosity that Dickens allegedly created is certainly cause for celebration.

May your holiday celebrations be full of the Dickens – with family, friends, generosity, fun, games, and merriment!