Scrooge awakes when the bell strikes one, and is immediately prepared for the second Ghost's arrival. After a while, he sees a light come from the adjacent room. A strange voice tells him to enter, and when he does, he sees his room has been decked out with Christmas decorations and a feast. A giant ghost introduces himself as the Ghost of Christmas Present and tells Scrooge to touch his robe. When he does, they are transported to the streets on Christmas morning where, despite the gloomy weather, people frolic joyously in the snow as shopkeepers pass out delicious food. The people carry their dinners off with them and occasionally bump each other accidentally and argue. When the Ghost sprinkles a few drops of water from his torch on them, however, peace is restored.
The Ghost transports Scrooge to the modest house of Bob Cratchit. His family, dressed in its best clothing, waits for Bob to return from church before they eat dinner. He comes in with his small, crippled son, Tiny Tim. They discuss Tiny Tim's good heart and his growing strength, then have a wonderful dinner. When Scrooge asks, the Ghost informs him that, unless the future is altered, Tiny Tim will die. At the dinner, Mrs. Cratchit curses Scrooge, but her husband reminds her that it is Christmas.
The Ghost brings Scrooge to a number of other happy Christmas dinners in the city, as well as to celebrations in a miner's house, a lighthouse, and on a ship. Scrooge is then taken to his nephew Fred's house, where Fred tells his pretty wife and his sisters he feels sorry for Scrooge, since his miserly, hateful nature deprives him of pleasure in life. Scrooge's niece plays a tune on the harp, which softens Scrooge's heart. Scrooge even joins in for some of their games, though they are not aware of his ghostly presence.
The Ghost pulls Scrooge away from the games to a number of other Christmas scenes, all joyful despite the often meager environments. As they travel, the Ghost ages and says his life is shorthe will die at midnight. A boy and girl, looking ragged, unhealthy, and impoverished, crawl out from his robes. The Ghost tells Scrooge they are named Ignorance and Want. He tells him to beware of them, especially the boy, on whose brow is written doom. He encourages Scrooge to deny Ignorance in himself and others. When Scrooge asks if the children have no refuge, the Ghost answers with Scrooge's previous words"'Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?'" The bell strikes twelve, the Ghost disappears, and Scrooge sees a new phantom, solemn and robed, approach.
We have seen little attention paid to the religious ceremony of Christmas. Instead, Dickens focuses on the celebratory nature of Christmas while the Christian ideals of love and sacrifice are underscored. Lavish descriptions of large dinners and raucous accounts of games dominate this stave, since eating and playing imply pleasure for both the individual and the community. Dickens wants to show that giving does not deplete the giver, but rather enriches him.
The set piece of the stave is the Cratchit family dinner. Love trumps poverty in Dickens's sentimental portrait of the Cratchits, but he adds a dark note at the end when he reveals Tiny Tim will die unless the future is changed. Another foreshadowed element is the "Doom" written across the Ignorant boy's brow. In both cases, the Ghost suggests that Scrooge has a stake in changing the future.
A Christmas Carol, then, celebrates the potentiality for redemption in everyone, promotes the idea that it is never too late to learn to love, and elevates the importance of free will. By doing so, Dickens provides hope for English Victorian society to close the chasm between the Haves and Have-Nots and overturn the unjust Poor Laws that keep the underclass enchained.
The Ghost's brief life span of one day also reminds Scrooge, and the reader, that we must act quickly if we are to change the present. Unlike before, when Scrooge was concerned with the present only insofar as it was related to the transaction of money, he is starting to see it in "seize the day" termsas an opportunity to change the lives of the less fortunate, right now.