It’s amazing how Charles Dickens has become like Old Saint Nick himself, the father of Christmas. The name Dickens for wider audiences is less associated with some great work like A Tale of Two Cities and more intimately associated with the jovial, heartwarming festivities of Christmas. Many cities put on a Dickens themed Christmas festival each year, like my hometown of Franklin, TN and its Dickens of a Christmas festival downtown. I researched a little, and found one festival in San Francisco that really takes the cake for over-the-top Victorian Christmas celebrations. The festival is called The Great Dickens Christmas Fair and it runs from the week before Thanksgiving until right before Christmas. Here is the blurb describing the Fair on its main page:
“The Great Dickens Christmas Fair is a one-of-a-kind holiday adventure into Victorian London – an elaborate party with hundreds of costumed players performing and interacting with patrons in over 120,000 square feet of theatrically-lit music halls, pubs, dance floors, and Christmas shops. It’s a twilight evening in Charles Dickens’ London Town – a city of winding lanes filled with colorful characters from both literature and history. Enticing aromas of roasted chestnuts and hearty foods fill the air. Cries of street vendors hawking their wares ring out above the bustling crowd. Dozens of lamplit shops are filled to overflowing with Christmas gifts. The Dickens Christmas Fair is a treasured Bay Area tradition since 1970 and a splendid way to celebrate the holidays.”
It is really interesting to me that one of the main features of the fair is its “enticing aromas of roasted chestnuts and hearty foods.” This immediately called to mind the scene from A Christmas Carol where the ghost of Christmas present is sitting in a room filled to the brim with mouth-watering food. Dickens uses almost a whole page to describe in great detail the food items present. In class we discussed how Dickens did not include advertisements with his release of A Christmas Carol, but instead used the work itself to advertise items that consumers could buy around the holidays, such as roasted chestnuts. Dickens’s hidden advertising has now become a primary selling point for getting crowds to come out and–you guessed it– purchase things! The Great Dickens Christmas Fair is basically a large arena to spend money, from the $25 ticket price to the various array of food and drink, toys and ornaments, ceramics, leather, candles, and other “Victorian” items that might make a more festive and Dickensian Christmas celebration for families across the bay area.
Here is a link to a video describing the fair: