Philanthropy in A Christmas Carol

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Young people identify examples of philanthropy in a classic piece of literature. Note: One handout has Biblical applications of the storyline. 

PrintTwo 45-Minute Sessions

The learner will:

  • identify and explain the themes of philanthropy in A Christmas Carol.
  • copies of the novel or video of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • handouts below
  • A Christmas Carol, starring George C. Scott. Directed by Clive Donner. 100 minutes. Twentieth Century Fox Theater Release Date 1984; Video Release Date, 1999. DVD. ASIN: B0006419KA


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask young people if they are familiar with the story A Christmas Carol with the main character Scrooge. Talk about what they know about the story and ask them to recall the main idea of the story. Bring forward the message of a selfish, lonely man realizing he finds joy in generosity and being part of his community. Tell the learners this is the concept of philanthropy. 

  2. Assign groups of learners to define philanthropy-related words found in A Christmas Carol:

    • social injustice
    • workhouses
    • abundance
    • charitable
    • surplus
    • destitute
    • provision
    • benevolence
    • common welfare
    • mercy
    • charity
    • forbearance
  3. Give 10 minutes for learners to write a journal entry in response to the question “What gives you joy at the holidays and why?” 

  4. Watch or read parts of the book and discuss how Scrooge got to be so lonely and selfish, and how that impacted him and the community.

  5. Discuss the roles and appearances of the ghosts. What do they represent? Do we have reminders in our lives to be more generous? Discuss how our attitudes and actions affect us (and our community) today and in the future.

  6. Discuss this quote from Marley's ghost. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

  7. Read the parts or watch Stave Two: “The First of the Three Spirits.” 

  8. Discuss the significance of when Scrooge says this to Christmas Past of Fezziwig: “He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up: what then? The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”

  9. Read the parts or watch Stave Three: “The Second of the Three Spirits.” Ccompare and contrast the quality of Scrooge's life with Bob Cratchit's life. (Although it may appear that Scrooge is better off because he has more money, he is a very lonely man. Cratchit is financially poor, but outwardly a happier person because he has a loving family and a kind, charitable nature.)

  10. Read the parts or watch Staves Four and Five: “The Last of the Spirits” and “The End of It.” 

  11. Discuss the following questions:

    • How does Scrooge show that he has made mankind his business?
    • What does the story suggest is everyone's business? (The welfare of others.) Do you agree? What does that look like in the lives of leaders and citizens today?
  12. Optional project: Investigate the philanthropic activities at your school, faith-based organization, and with local youth groups. What could you join or get started?

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Discuss the function of family traditions and role modeling in teaching about sharing and giving.