illustration of Ebenezer Scrooge in silhouette walking toward a Christmas tree and followed by the three ghosts

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

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What does the Cratchits' Christmas feast reveal to Scrooge in A Christmas Carol?

Quick answer:

The Cratchits react to their Christmas feast with great happiness and gratitude in Dickens's A Christmas Carol. This is despite the fact that their feast is actually rather modest on account of their being so poor. Their celebration shows Scrooge the true meaning of Christmas.

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The Cratchits have a meager Christmas feast that includes only potatoes, gravy, applesauce, and a modest goose heavily filled out with sage and onion. This is followed by the Christmas pudding, a general English term for dessert.

The Cratchits react to this "feast" with the highest delight. They treat the goose as the "rarest of all birds," and the narrator notes that this is close to true in the Cratchit household, suggesting that they don't often get to eat meat. The text says that the younger children get a good deal of onion and sage, meaning that the ratio of goose meat to vegetables is not very high. At the end of the meal, Mrs. Cratchit brings out the pudding, shaped like a cannonball and set alight with a little brandy, to the great happiness of all.

We are told that everyone gets enough to eat and is "satisfied" at the end of this meal, which means that often the family probably doesn't get enough to eat. In addition, nobody will say that the Christmas pudding is small, which means that it is, but that the family is looking on the positive side of life. They are all very happy and excited with this meal. The room crackles with their pleasure.

As Scrooge is for the first time beginning to realize, the Cratchits barely get enough to eat because he choose to exploit and underpay Bob Cratchit. Scrooge, ironically, gets no joy out of his bags of excess wealth, while the Cratchits make the most happiness possible out of their poverty.

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The Ghost of Christmas Present—a large, jolly soul who resembles Santa Claus in many respects—represents the true spirit of Christmas as it should be enjoyed and celebrated. As Scrooge doesn't understand or appreciate the meaning of Christmas, the Ghost sets out to teach him what this special time of year is all about.

To that end, he takes him to the Cratchit household. Although the Cratchits are dirt-poor, thanks largely to Scrooge's stinginess, they celebrate Christmas as best they can, reveling in the love and warmth they have for each other.

As they barely have two ha'pennies to rub together, the Cratchits can only afford a very modest Christmas lunch. In fact, there's so little food on offer that it doesn't really constitute a feast as most people would understand it. But even so, the spirit of Christmas remains alive and well within the Cratchit household and teaches Scrooge in no uncertain terms what the holiday season is really about.

When it comes down to it, Christmas isn't about how much money you have; it's about expressing gratitude for the blessings you have, such as a loving family. As yet, Scrooge, a lonely old miser without friends or close family, doesn't understand this concept—but by the following morning, he will.

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The Cratchit family is grateful for their feast even though it is meager, and Scrooge realizes that you do not need much to be happy as long as you have people you love.

The Cratchit family reminds Scrooge what it means to be deliberately happy.  The Cratchits are happy because they want to be.  The enjoy each other’s company.  They make the most of small luxuries.  They love each other, and because they do not have much they savor what they have.

Scrooge, who is a stingy miser who spends his nights eating alone and usually just has gruel because it is cheap, is astonished when he sees how excited the Cratchits are about their Christmas feast.  They are making much of little.

And now two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that outside the baker's they had smelt the goose, and known it for their own; and basking in luxurious thoughts of sage and onion … (Ch. 3)

The Cratchits all enjoy their goose, and their gravy, apple-sauce and potatoes.  The goose was cooked at the baker’s because they didn’t have a way to cook it.  They were too poor.  When they were praising the goose, the fact that it was cheap was one of the things they were most proud of.  The pudding was also a source of admiration for all.

Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing. (Ch. 3)

The Cratchits would never complain that there wasn’t enough to eat or the dinner was not fine enough. When Scrooge is toasted as the “Founder of the Feast,” Mrs. Cratchit objects at first, calling him “odious.”   Bob tells her to think of the children and she agrees to toast.

The celebration the Cratchits have tells Scrooge that family is more important than money, and you should savor what you do have.  Holidays are about more than spending and presents.  Holidays are about being with the ones you love and enjoying time with them.

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