Ghost of Christmas Past

The Ghost of Christmas Past or the Spirit of Christmas Past is a fictional character in the 1843 work A Christmas Carol by the English novelist Charles Dickens.

Ghost of Christmas Past
Scrooge "extinguishes" the Ghost of Christmas Past. Original 1843 illustration by John Leech.
First appearanceA Christmas Carol 1843
Created byCharles Dickens
OccupationProducer of Visions
RelativesGhost of Christmas Present
Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Jacob Marley


The Ghost of Christmas Past is the first of the three spirits (after the visitation by Jacob Marley, his former business partner) to haunt Ebenezer Scrooge. This angelic and caring 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' novella, the Ghost of Christmas Past appears to Scrooge as a white-robed, androgynous figure of indeterminate age. It has on its head a blinding light, reminiscent of a candle flame, and carries a metal cap, made in the shape of a candle extinguisher. The light symbolises the way he is shining light on Scrooge's memories. The cap symbolises our ability to supress memories. The ghost is often portrayed as a woman in dramatic adaptations of the story:

...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 wherein they melted away.[1]

The role of the ghost of Christmas past 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 its cap and finds himself back in his bedroom, where he very quickly fell asleep.[2]

Appearance in various film adaptations

Various adaptations have added to the history shown by the Ghost. For example, in a 1984 film version of A Christmas Carol, 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 1935 film Scrooge, the Ghost is portrayed as an outline.
  • In the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, the Ghost is portrayed as an angelic young woman.
  • In the 1951 film A Christmas Carol, the Ghost 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[3]
  • 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 cigar-smoking 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 Animaniacs episode "A Christmas Plotz" The Ghost of Christmas Past is played by Wakko Warner, who shows Plotz his past misdeeds (ex. suing Santa for getting him a pony instead of a horse) through a home theater pulled from his "Gag Bag."
  • In the 1994 television special, A Flintstones Christmas Carol, a woman named Garnet was originally supposed to play the Ghost of Christmas Past, but Wilma ended up portraying the Ghost instead after Garnet caught "The Bedrock Bug".
  • 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 1997 made-for-television film Ms. Scrooge, the spirit is portrayed by Michael J. Reynolds in the appearance of a 1950s businessman with a bowler hat.
  • 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 yellow 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 2008 film "Barbie: in a Christmas Carol" the actress Tabitha St. Germain portrayed the Spirit of Christmas Past as a bubbly young appearing girl who wore a sparkling white and gold dress, accompanied with a golden wand that produced magical specks of gold. Using said wand she created portals and gave both herself, Eden (Morwenna Banks) and Eden's loyal cat, Chuzzlewhit the ability to fly. The Spirit of Christmas Past takes Eden back to her childhood home, showing her how cruel her Aunt Marie (Pam Hyatt,) was to her during her upbringing. The spirit continues to show Eden the memory of when she snuck out to join her only friend, Catherine (Kandyse McClure) and her family for Christmas. That was before (older) Eden demands the empathetic spirit to take back to her room, after reliving the wrath of Aunt Marie finding out and crashing the previously joyful Christmas party.
  • 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.
  • He is represented as J. P. Morgan in the third season of Epic Rap Battles of History.
  • 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 2017 film The Man Who Invented Christmas, Anna Murphy plays the spirit.
  • In the Beavis And Butthead episode "Beavis And Butthead Do Christmas", the Ghost of Christmas Past is played by the duo's neighbor Tom Anderson, who shows a sleeping Beavis how he has wasted his whole life watching TV and never helped his fellow man. However, Beavis just considers his life of sloth to have been "cool".

See also


  1. Stave 2, note 7, Hearn, Michael P. 1989. The Annotated Christmas Carol / A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens; illustrated by John Leach; with an introduction, notes, and bibliography by Michael Patrick Hearn. Avenel Books. New York. ISBN 0-517-68780-1.
  2. Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol in Prose; Being a Ghost Story of Christmas by Charles Dickens. Project Gutenberg.
  3. De wonderbaarlijke genezing van Ebenezer Scrooge, Theater Instituut Nederland
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