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Ghost of Christmas Past

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First appearance

Charles Dickens


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The Ghost of Christmas Past or The Spirit of Christmas Past is a fictional character in the work A Christmas Carol by the English novelist Charles Dickens.


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Ghost of Christmas Past The Ghost of Christmas Past Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol

The Ghost of Christmas Past is the first of the three spirits (after the visitation by Jacob Marley) to haunt Ebenezer Scrooge. This angelic spirit shows Scrooge scenes from his past that occurred on or around Christmas, in order to demonstrate to him the necessity of changing his ways, as well as to show the reader how Scrooge came to be a bitter, cold-hearted miser.

According to Dickens' novel, the Ghost of Christmas Past appears to Scrooge as a white-robed, androgynous figure of indeterminate age. It has on its head a blazing light, reminiscent of a candle flame, and carries a metal cap, made in the shape of a candle extinguisher. The ghost is often portrayed as a woman in dramatic adaptations of the story:

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"...being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom where in they melted away."

Role in the story

After showing up in Scrooge's house, the Ghost of Christmas Past takes his hand and flies with him over London. It first shows Scrooge his old boarding school, where he stayed alone, but for his books, while his schoolmates returned to their homes for the Christmas holidays. The spirit then shows Scrooge the day when his beloved younger sister Fan picked him up from the school after repeatedly asking their cold, unloving father to allow his return, as she joyfully claims that he has changed and is now kinder than he was. Next, the spirit shows Scrooge a Christmas Eve a few years later in which he enjoys a Christmas party hosted by his first boss, Mr. Fezziwig, a kind and loving man, who treated Scrooge like a son, and was more compassionate to him than was his own father.

The spirit also shows Scrooge the Christmas Eve when, as a young man, his beloved fiancée Belle ended their relationship upon realizing that he now cared more for money than he did for her. Scrooge did not ask Belle to end their engagement, but he did not fight to keep her. Finally, the spirit shows him how she married and found true happiness with another man. After this vision, Scrooge pleads with the spirit to show him no more, to which the spirit replies:

"These are the shadows of things that have been. That they are what they are, do not blame me!"

Angered, Scrooge extinguishes the spirit with his cap and finds himself back in his bedroom, the time on the clock not having changed.

Appearance in various film adaptations

Various adaptations have added to the history shown by the Ghost. For example, in one relatively modern film version of A Christmas Carol (1984), the spirit shows Scrooge an encounter between him and his unloving father, in which his father tells him that he has arranged an apprenticeship for young Scrooge, and that the boy's much longed-for homecoming is only to last three days.

Other significant variations over time have included the following:

  • In the 1938 Alan Hart version of A Christmas Carol, the Ghost is portrayed as an angelic young woman.
  • In the 1951 film A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Past is an elderly man. In this version, the story is changed so that Fan is older than Ebenezer and the ghost shows him his sister’s death in childbirth.
  • In the TV special Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol, a 1962 animated version, the Ghost is portrayed as a young, slight, androgynous figure (voiced by a female voice actor) with a flame above his/her head, a sprig of holly and an orange glow (and appears, erroneously, as ghost #2, after the Ghost of Christmas Present and before the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come).
  • In the 1970 version titled Scrooge, the Ghost is portrayed as an elderly but elegant lady with a red dress and a black hat.
  • In the 1971 animated version of A Christmas Carol, the Ghost is depicted as a small, white, androgynous figure which shimmers in an effect similar to double-vision.
  • In the 1979 Dutch musical De Wonderbaarlijke Genezing van Ebenezer Scrooge ("The Wonderful Cure of Ebenezer Scrooge"), the ghost is played by Bram van der Vlugt
  • In a 1982 version of A Christmas Carol, the spirit is a Cupid-like young man
  • In Disney's 1983 animated adaptation titled Mickey's Christmas Carol, Jiminy Cricket (Eddie Carroll) plays the role of the Ghost to Scrooge McDuck's Scrooge
  • In the 1984 made-for-television adaptation of A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Past (Angela Pleasence) is portrayed as a middle-aged woman with blonde hair and a white robe.
  • In the 1988 comedy film Scrooged, the Ghost of Christmas Past (played by David Johansen) is portrayed as a cab driver with a Brooklyn accent.
  • The 1992 film The Muppet Christmas Carol did not use a Muppet character to portray the spirit, but re-imagined it. This version appeared as a tiny, ghostly girl, dressed in white and floating as if immersed in water. This effect was created by immersing a special puppet in a large water tank and then green-screened into the film. The voice for the Ghost was provided by Jessica Fox, while the character was performed by Karen Prell, Robert Tygner, and William Todd-Jones. The Ghost of Christmas Past was featured in the "Holiday Time!" entry of The Muppets Character Encyclopedia.
  • In the 1993 Alvin and the Chipmunks episode Merry Christmas, Mr. Carrol!, released on VHS as Alvin's Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Past is portrayed by Dave Seville. In this appearance, Dave has white hair and wears a gray robe lined with holly green. He shows Alvin his first Christmas with his brothers, reminding Alvin of how kind he had been giving to Dave.
  • In Ebbie, the Ghost is portrayed as two spirits with but a single thought, played by Jennifer Clement and Nicole Parker, who also were the two perfume salesladies at Dobson's.
  • In the 1997 animated version of A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Past is portrayed as a mischievous young boy in a messenger boy's outfit.
  • In the 1998 animated musical television film An All Dogs Christmas Carol, Itchy becomes the spirit appearing to Carface Carruthers.
  • In the 1999 made-for-television version of A Christmas Carol, the spirit is portrayed as a glowing being of indeterminate age, as described in the novel.
  • In the 2000 made-for-television film A Diva's Christmas Carol, Kathy Griffin plays the spirit.
  • In the 2003 made-for-television film A Carol Christmas, Gary Coleman plays the spirit.
  • In the 2004 made-for-television film A Christmas Carol: The Musical, the Ghost of Christmas Past first appears in the real world as a lamplighter, and then as a barefoot fairy-like creature in a white shift and garlands.
  • In the 2006 CGI film A Christmas Carol, the Ghost is portrayed as an anthropomorphic stork.
  • In Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas, Granny (June Foray) and Tweety (Bob Bergen) take on the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past.
  • In the 2009 performance captured film Disney's A Christmas Carol, the voice and acting of the Ghost of Christmas Past is provided by actor Jim Carrey. Similar to the original novel, the spirit appears as a candle-like being with an occasionally flickering flame for his head. Scrooge extinguishes this spirit with its giant candle snuffer hat, but in this version, this causes Scrooge to be rocketed thousands of feet into the air while clinging onto the snuffer, only to have it disappear, resulting in Scrooge falling down to earth, back into his bedroom for the next visitation.
  • In the Doctor Who 2010 Christmas special "A Christmas Carol", the Doctor (Matt Smith) uses the TARDIS, his time machine, to play the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past to Michael Gambon's Scrooge.
  • In the 2016 My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode "A Hearth's Warming Tail", Applejack (Ashleigh Ball) represents the "Spirit of Hearth's Warming Past".
  • In the Thomas and Friends episode, Diesel's Ghostly Christmas, the Ghost of Christmas Past is portrayed by Salty.
  • In the Animaniacs episode "A Christmas Plotz" The Ghost of Christmas Past is played by Wakko Warner.
  • References

    Ghost of Christmas Past Wikipedia