Although the gift giving legacy of Christmas most likely has its origins in the gold, frankincense, and myrrh of the three wise men, I'm certain that "A Christmas Carol" influenced the extravegant giving that has become the secular legacy of our modern Christmas. And that wasn't the story's only influence. When we think of a famous phrase from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," we think first of "Bah Humbug." But there's another phrase from the novella that became so popular after it was published that we no longer even think about its roots. That is, at least according to wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_christmas_carol), the phrase "Merry Christmas."
I spent some time in a local park on December 26. A young boy and his father were there, trying out a mini motorcyle that I assume had arrived the preceding day. There was also a young mother with her son and daughter all on rollerblades they clearly were just starting to master. And there was a young father, also with a son and a daughter, experimenting with a skateboard first as it was meant to be used then as a sled on wheels. All the families I saw that day could have come out of Dickens' work. They were all examples of people sharing time and love while they shared gifts.
I can understand why some Christians are upset that sacred holidays are celebrated with such secular traditions as a fat man in a red suit bringing gifts, a rabbit hiding chocolate eggs, and (on the evening before All Saints Day) children dressed as witches, ghosts and devils. And I understand how reruns of an old, stingy man being visted by ghosts has become one of those traditions. But all these events increase family love and as Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, "And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."
Books can influence our lives at their cores. I, for one, am glad "A Christmas Carol" is one of those books.