Charles Dickens’s first piece of writing about Christmas appeared under the title ‘Christmas festivities’ in Bell’s Life in London, a weekly newspaper, on 27 December 1835. It was republished as ‘A Christmas Dinner’ in Sketches by Boz just a few weeks later in February 1836.

The essay describes a merry family Christmas party where grandparents, father and mother, uncles, aunts and children gather together to celebrate the season. Gradually the year’s quarrels and resentments are forgotten, ‘social feelings are awakened’ and ‘all is kindness and benevolence’. Grandfather tells his usual story, uncle makes the same jokes, the children are as excited as always at the sight of the gigantic pudding: they are all drawn together by simple, familiar customs, and life-affirming good will. Only a misanthrope, writes the 24-year-old Dickens, could not forget his sorrows and regrets for a day to celebrate Christmas.