Background.

A Christmas Carol.
  • Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart‘ is a quotation from A Christmas Carol (Stave 1).
  • A Christmas Carol is a novella, or short story, written by Charles Dickens and first published in the Christmas of 1843. The allegorical tale tells the story of the transformation of the mean-spirited Ebenezer Scrooge through the visits of the spirit of his former business partner and three ghosts over the course of a Christmas Eve night. It remains a much-loved traditional Christmas tale.

Context.

This quote is said by Ebenezer Scrooge towards the beginning of the story of A Christmas Carol, showing his mean attitude towards the festival of Christmas. Here, he suggests that those who wish others ‘Merry Christmas‘ should be boiled in their own pudding, a reference to the tradition of cooking a pudding at Christmas time.

The latter part of the quote is a humourous take on the medieval punishment of driving a wooden stake through the hearts of criminals, said to prevent the devil from taking their souls. This was reserved for the worst kind of perpetrators in Christianity which includes murderers, those committing suicide and those said to be devil-worshippers. Dickens has substituted the wooden stake for a stake of holly to reflect the symbolism of Christmas time (the holly plant being a traditional Christmas decoration).

This quotation appears in Stave 1 of A Christmas Carol at a point when Scrooge is visited at his place of work on Christmas Eve by his nephew, Fred. Fred is a cheerful character and the only living relative of Scrooge, the son of his beloved sister who died several years before the story takes place. Fred asks his uncle if he would like to come for dinner on Christmas day. Scrooge is dismissive of the festival, preferring his own solitude.


Illustration from the original publication of A Christmas Carol showing Ebenezer Scrooge being visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley.
Illustration from the original publication of A Christmas Carol showing Ebenezer Scrooge (left), here being visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, bound by the chains he forged in life.

Themes in A Christmas Carol: Christmas.

As reflected in the title the theme of Christmas is central to the novella A Christmas Carol. Christmas is a traditional Christian celebration of the birth of Christ. Occurring around the Winter Solstice (the longest night of the year) has led to traditions from other cultures and religions being incorporated over time including Pagan, Roman and Greek. Dickens incorporates a number of these traditions into A Christmas Carol, such as the bringing together of family and friends, feasting of food, gathering around a fire, the singing of carols, the figure of Saint Nicholas (also known as Santa Claus/Father Christmas), the giving of presents and attending church. At the start of the story we see the miserly misanthropic character Ebenezer Scrooge reject many of these traditions. He represents the opposite of human traits we associate with Christmas such as generosity and compassion. Through his transformation we see Scrooge adopt the spirit of Christmas such as happiness, generosity and kindness.

Ebenezer Scrooge.

Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the most famous characters created by Charles Dickens and arguably one of the most famous in English literature. The protagonist of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is the cold-hearted and mean-spirited accountant. His business partner, the equally mean Jacob Marley, died seven years previous and he lives alone, having never married. Through a visit one Christmas Eve by the ghost of Marley and three subsequent spirits, Scrooge is awakened to his meaness and the impact it has on others.

Source.

Taken from the following passage of Stave 1 (Marley’s Ghost) of A Christmas Carol:

“A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.

Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!

He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.

“Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?”

“I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”

“Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.”

Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug.

“Don’t be cross, uncle!” said the nephew.

“What else can I be,” returned the uncle, “when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas! What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ’em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”

“Uncle!” pleaded the nephew.

“Nephew!” returned the uncle sternly, “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.

“Keep it!” repeated Scrooge’s nephew. “But you don’t keep it.”

“Let me leave it alone, then,” said Scrooge. “Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!”

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Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.
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Resources.

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