What do the eighteen hundred brothers represent in A Christmas Carol?

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In stave three of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Present and learns that he has more than eighteen hundred brothers. On one level, this refers to the number of Christmases which have passed since the birth of Jesus. But, delving deeper, this comment signifies more than just numbers. Scrooge admits to the ghost that he has never walked with one of the spirit's brothers before:

"Have never walked forth with the younger members of my family; meaning (for I am very young) my elder brothers born in these later years?'' pursued the Phantom.

"I don't think I have,'' said Scrooge.

This implies that Scrooge has never truly appreciated the meaning of Christmas. We know that Dickens held Christmas in particularly high regard. For him, it was an opportunity to remember family members who have died and to be grateful for those still around. He made this sentiment very clear in his essay, What Christmas Is As We Grow Older, which he published in his magazine, Household Words. So, from this perspective, the eighteen hundred brothers represent all the years that Scrooge wasted by not being with his family and all the opportunities for meaningful interactions which he squandered. It is this sentiment which drives the story and contributes to Scrooge's reformation and redemption.