As the poor leave the bakery with their dinners in A Christmas Carol, the spirit sprinkles each dinner with what? Where does this come from?

As the poor leave the bakery with their dinners in A Christmas Carol, the spirit sprinkles incense on their food with his torch. The incense has the immediate effect of making people good-natured toward one another.

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In stave 3, Scrooge is visited by the jolly Ghost of Christmas Present, who takes him on a journey throughout London on a festive Christmas morning. As Scrooge stands on a crowded street watching poor people pass by with their dinners, the merry Ghost of Christmas Present sprinkles magical incense from his torch onto their food without being noticed. Scrooge notes that it is a "very uncommon kind of torch" and that the sprinkled incense immediately restores order and stops people from arguing.

The incense from the torch is the Ghost of Christmas Present's good will and holiday cheer, which he graciously spreads throughout the crowd and onto the meals of the less fortunate. When Scrooge inquires about the incense, the Ghost of Christmas Presents states that it can be applied to any type of meal, particularly to the poorest people's dinners, because they need it the most. The Spirit proceeds to take Scrooge to the Cratchit residence, which he blesses with his torch to enhance their Christmas cheer and holiday spirit.

The Ghost of Christmas Present is illustrating the importance of spreading happiness on the festive holiday and demonstrates charity by blessing the less fortunate, which is a lesson Scrooge learns and eventually takes to heart. Although Scrooge does not have a torch with magical mood-altering incense, he discovers that his words, gestures, and attitude can have the same pleasant effect on others.

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The Ghost of Christmas Present is a jolly old soul who, in many respects, closely resembles Santa Claus. As he takes Scrooge on a journey throughout the city, he wants to teach the old miser the true meaning of Christmas, something Ebenezer once knew as a young man but has since forgotten.

Once upon a time, when he worked for the kindly Mr. Fezziwig, Scrooge used to enter into the Christmas spirit, dancing and laughing along with the others as they enjoyed one of Fezziwig's legendary parties. But that all seems like a long time ago. Now, Scrooge is a mean old miser who positively hates Christmas and everything associated with it.

All the more reason, then, for the Ghost of Christmas Present to show him what the holiday season is all about. He shows the old skinflint a scene of happy people making their way to church and chapel in their finest Sunday best. At the same time, dozens of poor people emerge from their hovels, bringing their dinners to the bakeries.

The Ghost stands next to Scrooge in the doorway of the baker's shop, and as the poor people pass by, he sprinkles incense on their dinners from his torch. This has the remarkable effect of restoring good humor between people who'd previously exchanged unpleasantries as they bumped into each other. The last thing the Ghost wants is for people to argue and fight on Christmas.

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As others have said, the spirit, who is the Ghost of Christmas Present, sprinkled the dinners of the poor with drops of incense from his torch. This incense is the Christmas spirit of good will. It stops people from quarreling and puts them in a good humor. 

Scrooge asks the Ghost of Christmas Present more specifically about what he is sprinkling:

“Is there a peculiar flavour in what you sprinkle from your torch?” asked Scrooge.

The Ghost responds:

“There is. My own.”

Scrooge then asks:

“Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this day?”

The Ghost responds:

“To any kindly given. To a poor one most.”

“Why to a poor one most?” asked Scrooge.

“Because [the Ghost answers] it needs it most."

The poor would need the spirit of good will and humor sprinkled on their dinners most of all because they would have the poorest meals and the greatest struggles to face and, therefore, the most to irritate and anger them in life. They would also have the most reason to be sad or despondent. The people who are entering the bakeries to warm their food do so because they can't even afford ovens of their own, and for free or for a small fee, can use the residual heat from the bakers' ovens. 

The Ghost is demonstrating to Scrooge that there is more to life than accumulating the most possible money. The poor are more than simply the lack or want their poverty causes. Often they can have more of life's intangibles, such as the spirit of good will, than wealthy people like Scrooge. 

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As the poor people leave the bakery with their dinners, the Spirit of Christmas Present sprinkled each dinner with incense, or the Spirit of Christmas, from his torch. He does this for the poor because the poor are the ones who need the Spirit of Christmas the most. In addition, his torch was very unusual in other ways, as it had the power to also shed drops of water from it and restore good humor to those it touched immediately. For example, should travelers jostle each other and become angry, a few drops of water on them from the torch would restore them to good spirits. The Spirit of Christmas Present was essentially spreading the peace and joy of the holiday, although Scrooge did take issue with him and even argued with him a bit.

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The Ghost of Christmas Present sprinkles a type of "incense" on the meals of some of the people that he and Scrooge see on the streets.  He tells Scrooge when Scrooge asks if there is a particular flavor to what is being sprinkled that it is his own flavor, i.e., the Christmas spirit.  He gives it to those, he says, who need it the most because they have so little and are struggling to get by.  The Ghost sprinkles the foods with this incense from his torch.

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