“I have been looking on, this evening, at a merry company of children assembled round that pretty German toy, a Christmas Tree. The tree was planted in the middle of a great round table, and towered high above their heads. It was brilliantly lighted by a multitude of little tapers; and everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright objects.” ~ Charles Dickens
Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fireside and his quiet home! ~ Charles Dickens
“Christmas isn’t a season. It’s a feeling.” ~Edna Ferber
I wonder if Edna Ferber had Charles Dickens in mind when that thought came to her. Is there any one person who felt and expressed Christmas as did Dickens? Jesus may have invented Christmas, in a manner of speaking, but it was Dickens who revived it from its doldrums of early 19th century England when the holiday was sputtering like a wet yule log. Charles Dickens, breathed life back into Christmas and in the process influenced the celebration of Christmas to this day.
Dickens wove tales that carry the reader from the gloom of a bitter cold winter to the glow of a holiday gathering; the scent of evergreen, cinnamon and citrus. Reading a Dickens Christmas tale is like being served a snifter of holiday congeniality; a steaming mug of Christmas spirit to warm the cold hand before soothing the belly and the spirit. He chills the reader on a cold London street and then guides him to a warm Christmas hearth. His words of generosity and goodwill sing like the sweet refrain of a choir. In his stories live the spirits of redemption, hope, fellowship, joy and charity.
For decades Dickens has visited me at Christmas. As a child I watched cartoon and film versions of A Christmas Carol. A Christmas Carol has always sung to me. Nearly every December I pull out my worn copy and travel back to Victorian London to visit with Scrooge, the Cratchits, Fred and the ghosts of Christmas.
It was 47 years ago that my then girlfriend Denise and I discovered The Dickens Christmas Faire, held on weekends at the Cow Palace Exhibition Halls in San Francisco. The Dickens Faire transforms the dank halls into the lanes of Victorian London, complete with shops, music halls, pubs, a Fezziwig dance party and purveyors of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, meat pies, bangers and roasted chestnuts all washed down with ales, hot toddies, mulled wine or gin. The following year we went again, this time in period costume. I wore a waistcoat and Denise squeezed carefully into my Mustang wearing a hoop skirt.
Below: The Dickens Christmas Faire