On a cold, misty Christmas Eve in London, a smart, mean-spirited penny-pincher named Ebenezer Scrooge worked punctiliously in his counting-house. Outside the office was standing a little sign that said "Scrooge and Marley". Scrooge's business partner Jacob Marley had died seven years earlier. Inside the office, Scrooge watched over his writer, a poor miniature man called Bob Cratchit. The burning ashes in the fireplace provided a bit of heat even though Bob's room was tiny. Despite the extreme weather Scrooge refused to pay for more coal to warm his office.
Unexpectedly, a young man entered the office and gave them holiday greetings. The young man was Scrooge's cheerful nephew Fred who stopped by to ask Scrooge to come to the Christmas dinner. The grim Scrooge responded only with a "Bah! Humbug!" and refused to share Fred's Christmas joy. After Fred leaves, some gentlemen enter the office to request Scrooge a generous charity donation to help the needy. Scrooge angrily said that workhouses and prisons are the only charities he would support, so the gentlemen left empty-handed. Scrooge faces Bob Cratchit and complains about Bob's wish to take a day off for the holiday.
"What good is Christmas," Scrooge snipes, "that it should shut down business?"
He begrudgingly agreed to give Bob a day off but insisted that the next day come earlier to work.
Scrooge followed the same routine as it was the ordinary day, not Christmas, so he took his dinner in his usual tavern and returned home through the London streets. Before he entered the house, the door knocker who he had passed through twice that day caught his attention. A creepy image of the knocker gave him an instant shock - he saw a peering face of Jacob Marley, his ex-business partner. When Scrooge took a second look, he saw nothing but a door knocker. He opened the door and trudged into his miserable home. He made very little effort to light up his home.
"...darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it."
As he crawled up the staircase, in his utter doubt, he saw a locomotive climbing the stairs beside him.
After hurrying to his room, he locked the door and put on his night dressing-gown. As he ate his gruel in front of the fire, the carvings on his mantle unexpectedly transformed into Jacob Marley's face. Scrooge, bound to ignore the weird images, yelled "Humbug!" All the bells started to fly up from the tables and began to ring. Scrooge heard some footsteps pounding on the stairs. He looked and saw a ghostly figure floating through the closed door. It was Jacob Marley, translucent and wrapped in chains.
"Marley's face. It was not in impenetrable shadow, as the other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look: with ghostly spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead. The hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath of hot air; and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless. That, and its livid colour, made it horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the face, and beyond its control, rather than a part of its own expression."
Scrooge yelled in disbelief, and refused to believe that he saw Marley's ghost - "...a strange case of food poisoning", he claimed. The ghost began to mumble and said that he spent seven years in heavy chains wandering the Earth as punishment for all of his sins. Scrooge looked at him closely and realized that the chains are made of steel purses, ledgers, padlocks, and cashboxes. The ghost told Scrooge that he was sent from his grave to save him from the same fate. Marley said that, in the next three days, Scrooge will be visited by the three ghosts. The first two will visit him at one o'clock in the morning and the last one will arrive at midnight. He rose and backed to the window, which opened all by itself, leaving a shaky Scrooge all in fear. Scrooge looked through the window and he saw a crowd of ghosts, each wrapped in chains. They all moaned about their caring, honorable lives and for not being able to help the others in need. Scrooge stumbled to his bed and fell asleep instantly.
The First of the Three Spirits
Scrooge woke up at midnight, feeling confused. It was after two when he went to sleep. He thought it was noon or that he slept through the entire day, but shortly remembered the words Marley's ghost said. The first of the three ghosts will visit him at one o'clock. Scared, Scrooge decided to wait for his guest.
At one o'clock, Scrooge saw some child-looking person emanating a rich experience and an aura of wisdom. The spirit used a hat to cover the light that shone from its head. The ghost gently informed Scrooge that he is the Ghost of Christmas Past and ordered him to rise and walk with him. The spirit touched Scrooge and granted him the power to fly. They exited through the window.
The spirit took Scrooge to the countryside where he lived as a young boy. He saw his old friends, his school, and the familiar landmarks of his childhood. Touched by the memories, Scrooge began to cry. The spirit took him into the school where a lone boy, who was a young Ebenezer Scrooge, was spending the Christmas holiday all alone. The spirit took Scrooge on a tour of more Christmases of his past.
In the end, a little girl, who happened to be Scrooge's sister Fan, ran into the room and said that she came to take Ebenezer home. She said that their father is now softer and that he said that Ebenezer can return home.
""Yes!" said the child, brimful of glee. "Home for good and all. Home for ever and ever. Father is so much kinder than he used to be, that home's like Heaven! He spoke so gently to me one dear night when I was going to bed, that I was not afraid to ask him once more if you might come home; and he said Yes, you should; and sent me in a coach to bring you. And you're to be a man!" said the child, opening her eyes; "and are never to come back here; but first we're to be together all the Christmas long, and have the merriest time in all the world."
Pleased to see his sister, Scrooge took her hand joyfully. The old Scrooge regretfully told the spirit that his sister Fan died many years ago and she's Fred's mother.
The spirit accompanies Scrooge to more Christmases of the past as well as a Christmas party that was thrown by Fezziwig, a merchant with whom Scrooge apprenticed when he was young. Later, Scrooge saw a barely older yet still younger version of himself in discussion with a beautiful young woman Belle. She was breaking off the engagement with Scrooge saying that greed has corrupted his love. The ghost took Scrooge to a more recent Christmas setting where he saw a middle-aged Belle with her husband fighting about her former fiancé - Scrooge. Belle's husband said that her former fiancé is now "quite alone in the world."
He couldn't bear the visions anymore so he begged the Ghost of Christmas Past to take him back to the present. Full of despair and crushed, Scrooge seized the spirit's hat and pulled it over his head, darkening the light and, all of the sudden, Scrooge was back in his bedroom, where he immediately went to bed and fell asleep.
The Second of the Three Spirits
Scrooge was awake when the church clock struck one. He hoped he would confront the second ghost as soon as it arrived. The rings of the church bell faded, time passed and no ghost appeared. Fairly disappointed, Scrooge waited for about 15 minutes and wanted to go to sleep when a bright light began to stream upon him. Curious, Scrooge went into the other room where he found the second ghost waiting for him.
"The moment Scrooge's hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter. He obeyed."
It was a majestic figure, a giant who sat atop of the throne and with his booming voice told Scrooge he was the Ghost of Christmas Present. He told Scrooge to touch his robe and the room vanished instantly. Soon Scrooge found himself beside the ghost in the middle of the city on Christmas morning. People were blissfully passing by, toting bags of gifts, and greeted one another with a "Merry Christmas!"
Then, the ghost took Scrooge to the home of his worker Bob Cratchit, where his wife and children prepared a Christmas dinner and smelled the few Christmas feasts they could afford. Martha, Bob's oldest daughter, returned from her job at a milliner's. Peter, his oldest son, Peter, wore a stiff-collared shirt his father gave him and Bob came in with his youngest boy Tiny Tim carrying him on his shoulders as he was crippled and couldn't walk. The family was happy despite its poor Christmas dinner. Scrooge begged the ghost to tell him whether Tiny Tim would survive. The ghost told him that, considering the current situation, the chair in the Cratchit house will be empty for next year's Christmas dinner.
"No, no," said Scrooge. "Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared."
"If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race," returned the Ghost, "will find him here. What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."
"Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief."
The ghost took Scrooge to many Christmas dinners, including the one the isolated community miners had and a Christmas party on a ship. Then he took Scrooge to Fred's Christmas party, where Scrooge lost many party games and even had a fun time, even though no one at the party could actually see him.
As the night unfolded, the spirit grew older. In the end, he took Scrooge to a desolate and vast expanse where he showed him children dying from starvation. Their names were Want and Ignorance. Scrooge asked the spirit if something can be done to help poor children. Mockingly, the spirit quoted Scrooge what he said earlier: "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"
The spirit faded as the clock struck midnight and Scrooge looked at a hooded phantom suddenly coming toward him.
The Last of the Spirits
The phantom who was a scary figure wrapped in a black hooded robe approached Scrooge who involuntarily kneeled before him and asked him if he is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The phantom didn't answer, and Scrooge twitched in terror. Still whirling from the past adventures with the last two spirits, Scrooge begged the ghost to share his lesson, hopefully, he would avoid the same fate of his dead business partner.
The spirit took Scrooge to many odd places such as the London Stock Exchange, where he saw a group of businessmen talk about the death of some rich man. Then he saw some pawnshop with a group of shady characters selling some personal belongings stolen from a dead man. After that, Scrooge saw the dinner table of some poor family and a wife and husband expressing relief due to the death of an intolerant man to whom they owed some money, and the Cratchit home, where the family struggled to cope with Tiny Tim's death.
Scrooge begged the spirit to tell him the identity of the dead man and told him he now understood the lesson of the silent spirit. Unexpectedly, he found himself in a churchyard where the ghost pointed him to a grave. Scrooge approached the grave and read the inscription saying: EBENEZER SCROOGE.
Shocked, Scrooge clutched at the ghost and begged him to undo everything from his vision. He promised to honor Christmas and to live by the lessons all three spirits gave him. The spirit's hand began to shake, and, even though Scrooge continued to weep out to show him some mercy, the phantom's robe shrank and it disappeared.
"Spirit!" he cried, tight clutching at its robe, "hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?"
"For the first time the hand appeared to shake."
"Good Spirit," he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: "your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me by an altered life?"
Scrooge, once more, found himself back in his bed.
The End of It
Grateful for the second chance, Scrooge, sang praises to the spirits and his partner Jacob Marley. As soon as he realized it was Christmas morning, Scrooge started shouting "Merry Christmas!".
"I shall love it as long as I live!" cried Scrooge, patting it with his hand. "I scarcely ever looked at it before. What an honest expression it has in its face! It's a wonderful knocker! - Here's the Turkey. Hallo! Whoop! How are you? Merry Christmas!"
Honestly thrilled with excitement, he hardly took time to dress and danced while he shaved. Scrooge ran into the street and offered to pay the first boy he met on the street a huge amount if the boy would deliver a big Christmas turkey to Bob Cratchit's house.
He soon met one of the gentlemen who before asked for charity for the poor and even apologized for his previous disrespect promising he will donate big amounts of money to their charity. He attended Fred's Christmas party and felt such genuine joy that the other guests could hardly believe in shock at Scrooge's unforeseen behavior.
The next morning, Scrooge arrived at his office earlier and saw a very worried face of Bob Cratchit when he entered late. Scrooge, faking repulsion, began to rebuke Bob, but suddenly announced he's planning on giving him a huge raise and helping his poor family. Bob was shocked and didn't believe him, but Scrooge promised he would stay true to his word.
As time passed, Scrooge really did help the Cratchits and became a second father to little Tiny Tim who didn't die as the ghost predicted. Many were confused by his behavior, but Scrooge simply laughed off their doubts and suspicions. He brought a little bit of the Christmas spirit into each day, respecting the lessons he learned from Christmas spirits more than anyone else.
The narrator ends the story by saying that Scrooge's thoughts and words should be shared with all of us... "and so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, Every one!"