The Victorians changed the festive season as we know it, but Dickens changed the way Victorians themselves saw Christmas.

How do you celebrate Christmas? Perhaps with a big family gathering and a table laden with food? Are there presents, stockings and crackers, a large Christmas tree? What about a turkey, a ham or a Christmas pudding? Maybe you sing some carols, or play party games, or even swap all of this for a day of volunteering at a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen?

If you do just one of these things, then your Christmas would be very different without the intervention of one particular man. Were it not for him, Christmas as we know it today simply wouldn’t exist, and the festival itself might have all but died out, celebrated very quietly by simpy a religious few. The man? Charles Dickens – the author who virtually invented Christmas.

The history of Christmas is a long and winding one. A mongrel festival, whose Christianity was a late addition to celebrations with roots in Pagan and Roman practices, Christmas has always been the mirror of its age, whether in the...