Macy’s A Christmas Carol – You Can Walk Through This Version

This Guide is a highly in-depth preview of what you’ll see, at the Macy's Dickens Village - A Christmas Carol. If you’d like the logistical details of how to get there, and the history of the display, just click on the preceding link.

However, on this page, we’re going to talk about some of the unique aspects of Macy’s A Christmas Carol, that you might want to keep an eye out for. We also talk about some of the very subtle details from the original 1843 novel, by the great British author, Charles Dickens.

(As you can see, we haven't gotten to detailed descriptions of every scene, yet. We're doing them in chronological order, so please be patient, and check back for additional content, as we add it.)

When You Arrive at Macy’s A Christmas Carol

You’re greeted by a gigantic book, with the left side showing a Victorian illustration of Scrooge hoisting Tiny Tim, within a wreath. Underneath the illustration, it reads:

”God Bless Us, Everyone”

On the right side, it says:

A Christmas Carol

By Charles Dickens

Macy’s A Christmas Carol What You See

All scenes take place in London, England, in 1843 – the year Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, which he wrote during the autumn of that year. His publishers, Chapman and Hall, published the book, in time for the reading public during the Christmas season of 1843.

Macy’s A Christmas Carol is remarkably faithful, to the text of the original book. There will be wooden signs with red and white text, throughout each scene, explaining what is taking place. Some quote verbatim from the original A Christmas Carol; others are adaptations. We’re going to provide the original passages on this page.

The Original Structure of A Christmas Carol

We are accustomed to thinking of A Christmas Carol taking place in three parts – the Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present, and Ghost of Christmas Future.. In the original Carol, however, the chapters were as follows:

Stave 1 – Marley’s Ghost
Stave 2 – The First of the Three Spirits
Stave 3 – The Second of the Three Spirits
Stave 4 – The Last of the Spirits
Stave 5 – The End of It

Macy’s A Christmas Carol – Dickens Village

Macy’s A Christmas Carol uses the more common structure. You enter Victorian London, but it is not titled “Marley’s Ghost”. You then proceed under archways, each with different titles – Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come. After you emerge from the harrowing Christmas Yet To Come, it’s clearly Christmas Day.

Macy’s A Christmas Carol - Bob Cratchit

Time - Late afternoon on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1843.

Setting - The Counting-House of Ebenezer Scrooge.

In the foreground, you see Scrooge seated at his desk in his Counting-House. His poor, beleaguered clerk, Bob Cratchit, is standing at a desk behind him. A third man is in the scene, unidentified.

Scrooge’s desk has a mechanical set of scales, with coins in it, indicating that his sole interest in life is money. Cratchit is working on a document. You may notice that Cratchit and the visitor are both dressed the same way – each with an overcoat and muffler (what we would call a scarf) on. But think about this carefully – the other gentleman has just come in from the cold, which is why he has an overcoat and muffler on it. Bob Cratchit, who’s been in the Counting-House all day, has always had his overcoat and muffler on. The reason-

Scrooge is so cheap, that he doesn’t want to spend any more money on coal, to heat the Counting-House, that he possibly has to. So both he and Cratchit have to spend all day, dressed for outdoor weather.

This scene illustrates Cratchit and Scrooge, winding up business for the day. Scrooge begrudgingly asks his clerk, “You’ll be wanting the whole day off tomorrow, I suppose?” Cratchit answers that he would. Scrooge complains that Cratchit would consider himself “ill-used”, if he wasn’t given the entire day off. Yet at the same time, Scrooge himself feels “ill-used”, because he’s paying Cratchit a full day’s wages. Cratchit replies, politely, that it’s only once a year. Scrooge crankily concedes the point, and demands that Cratchit be in “all the earlier” on December 26.

A wooden sign behind you contains an adaptation of the original text.

Macy’s A Christmas Carol -The Gentlemen of Good Will

Time – Late afternoon, Christmas Eve.
Setting – Scrooge’s Counting House

Two well-dressed gentlemen – clearly indicating that they are of Scrooge’s age, wealth, and socioeconomic class – have come to the Counting-House of Scrooge and Marley, to solicit for donations to the poor. Scrooge refuses, asking rhetorically, “Are there no prisons? Are there no Workhouses?” And thus, he declines to donate.

In one of the best witticisms of the original text-

One of the gentlemen, after presenting the merits of the cause, makes the Victorian equivalent of the modern “presumptive close”, by concluding, “What should I put you down for?

When Scrooge emphatically emphasizes, “Nothing!” – his reply is “You wish to remain anonymous?”, although he knows full well that Scrooge’s remark was most assuredly not a request to make an anonymous donation!

When they protest that many people would rather die, than go to the prisons or workhouses, Scrooge sneers that “they had better do so, to decrease the surplus population!”

Some Of Our Observations

Dickens, with this scene, levels a scathing attack on the economic theories of the British economist Thomas Malthus, among others. Malthus, who lived from 1766 to 1834 (when, ironically, he died on December 23, two days before Christmas). His writings were very influential at the time of A Christmas Carol.

Malthus theorized that the wretched poverty facing Britain, was due to the population expanding too rapidly (“exponentially”) while food production increases at a much lower rate (“arithmetically”).

Malthusians ideas have subsequently been discredited, fortunately. A prominent example is modern America. With far less than 1% of the population farming the land, we have the highest standard of living of any nation in world history, and, in fact, export a great deal of our agricultural crops. And we do so easily, feeding a nation of about 310 million people in 2010 - more than sixteen times the population of Britain in 1840, which had only 18.5 million.

Macy’s A Christmas Carol - Nephew Fred

Time – Late afternoon, Christmas Eve.
Setting – Scrooge’s Counting House

Scrooge’s nephew Fred – a young man, roughly of the same age as Bob Cratchit – stops by the Counting-House, to invite Scrooge for Christmas dinner the following day. Scrooge gives his traditional, trademark answer, “Bah! Humbug!” - and flatly refuses the invitation.

Scrooge adds that he “wishes that every fool who goes around saying ‘Merry Christmas’ should be boiled in his own pudding, and with a stake of holly driven through his heart.!”

The reader of the book does not know of the source of Scrooge and Fred’s relationship, and it isn’t immediately revealed here, either – we’ll discuss it later.

Some of Our Observations

In the original text, Scrooge and Fred trade barbs with each other:

'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 them 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!'

Macy’s A Christmas Carol -Tiny Tim

Time – Late afternoon, Christmas Eve.
Setting – Scrooge’s Counting House

Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit’s youngest child, is waiting for his father to take him home to Camden Town, where they live. (It is a further irony that there is also a Camden, New Jersey, directly across the Delaware River from Center City Philadelphia, to which you can reach via the RiverLink Ferry from Penn’s Landing.- this geographical coincidence has no connection to A Christmas Carol, however!) You see the boy there with his crutch, underneath a lamppost.

Some of Our Observations

What exactly was Tiny Tim’s affliction, that forced him to travel with a crutch?
Modern science has speculated that it was probably due to a condition known as rickets. It had two reinforcing causes, as it is caused by vitamin deficiency. The first was that on his father’s pathetic 15-shillings-a-week salary, he wasn’t eating a proper diet, and so it was malnutrition. Another was the industrial pollution caused by the Industrial Revolution. London factories were bellowing out so much smoke, soot, and ashes, that the London skies, already famously foggy to begin with, were even darker, if that could be imagined.

And in the poorest sections of London – such as Camden Town, where the Cratchits lived – there was almost no sunlight, whatsoever. As a result, Tiny Tim was not receiving enough Vitamin D via sunlight, which further aggravated the malnutrition and the rickets.

The inspiration for the name “Tiny Tim” was one of Dickens’s actual relatives, who was known as “Tiny Fred” (and so he was memorialized in not one, but two key characters in the story.

Macy’s A Christmas Carol - A Vision of Marley

Time – Late afternoon, Christmas Eve.
Setting – Scrooge’s Counting House.

Macy’s A Christmas Carol -The Ghost of Christmas Past

Time – Late afternoon, Christmas Eve.
Setting – Scrooge’s Counting House.

Macy’s A Christmas Carol - Scrooge as a Boy

Time – Late afternoon, Christmas Eve.
Setting – Scrooge’s Counting House.

Macy’s A Christmas Carol - Fezziwig’s Party

Time – Late afternoon, Christmas Eve.
Setting – Scrooge’s Counting House.

Macy’s A Christmas Carol - Belle

Time – Late afternoon, Christmas Eve.
Setting – Scrooge’s Counting House.

Macy’s A Christmas Carol - Christmas Present

You now enter under another archway, as you return to Christmas, 1843 – i.e., Christmas Present.

Macy’s A Christmas Carol -The Ghost of Christmas Present

Time – Late afternoon, Christmas Eve.
Setting – Scrooge’s Counting House.

Macy’s A Christmas Carol -The Cratchit Home

Time – Late afternoon, Christmas Eve.
Setting – Scrooge’s Counting House.

Macy’s A Christmas Carol - Christmas Yet to Come

You now enter an archway, ominously titled, Christmas Yet To Come, in white Gothic text. If you look directly above, you can see two skulls, that of a bride and groom on their wedding day – a chilling reminder of death and decay.

Macy’s A Christmas Carol -The Ghost of Christmas Future

Time – Late afternoon, Christmas Eve.
Setting – Scrooge’s Counting House.

Macy’s A Christmas Carol - Old Joe and the Thieves

Time – A Christmas Yet to Come..
Setting – Thieves’ Den An’ Beggars’ Alley, in a iniquitous section of London..

Macy’s A Christmas Carol -“An Ill-Kept Graveyard”

Time – A Christmas Yet to Come.
Setting – “An Ill-Kept Graveyard” in a poor section of London..

Macy’s A Christmas Carol - Christmas Morning

Time – Early Morning, Christmas Day.
Setting – Scrooge’s House.

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