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Three Popular Christmas Characters


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Picture sleeve of children's series 10

With Christmas just days away, today we’re going to look at three characters from stories about the festive season.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Although most of us recognise Rudolph from the popular song, he first appeared in a booklet by Robert L. May in 1939. The booklet was distributed by a Chicago-based retailer who bought and gave away colouring books every Christmas, and who thought they would save money if they printed their own. Initially the story idea behind Rudolph’s adventure was rejected because bright red noses had negative connotations in popular culture. While at the time red noses were closely associated with alcoholics and drunkards, now we’re more likely to think of Santa’s ninth reindeer. The names we often give the other reindeer (Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen) are based on those that appear in the 1829 poem A Visit from St. Nicholas (also known as The Night Before Christmas).

Ebenezer Scrooge
While Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer ends up saving Christmas for children across the world, the character Scrooge is a miserly, mean-spirited, Christmas-hating man. The word ‘Scrooge’ is used to describe someone who is stingy and bad-tempered (especially so about festivities), and the word comes from the character Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’s 1843 novella A Christmas Carol. The character Scrooge is described as ‘...a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner’, but after being visited by four ghosts he comes to see how his ill will affects those around him. Scrooge’s catchphrase – “Bah humbug!” – though only used twice in the book, has also become a popular way to express disgust. Last year we wrote about some of the other words that Charles Dickens contributed to the English language – you can read more about them here.

The Grinch
Similarly to ‘Scrooge’, the word ‘Grinch’ is now widely used to describe someone who is greedy, with a negative attitude towards the Christmas season. The Grinch is a character who first appeared in 1957, in Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! From his home on a cliff overlooking Whoville – a community of cheerful Christmas-lovers – the Grinch scorns the Christmas season and its associated festivities. After disguising himself as Santa Claus, the Grinch breaks into Whoville’s homes and steals their decorations and presents in an attempt to ruin Christmas, but the next day discovers that Whoville’s residents are singing happily. Like Scrooge, the Grinch comes to realise that there is more to Christmas than he originally thought. While the Grinch was portrayed as colourless in Dr. Seuss’s original book, he is usually seen as green and furry in popular culture. He is also usually still depicted as grumpy, despite his transformation in the story.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, why not check out some of our other articles?

Have a lovely week!


22 Dec 2014
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