Every Friday after Thanksgiving, the Ghost of Christmas Past pursues Ebenezer Scrooge along the streets of downtown Fayetteville, N.C., until the infamous miser realizes the joy of giving. This presentation of Dickens’ beloved story, A Christmas Carol, is part of the transformation into Victorian times that downtown Fayetteville undergoes that afternoon and evening. There’s also performers in period costumes, shop windows adorned in Victorian ornaments, horse-drawn carriage rides and 18th-century music.
Now in its 18th year, A Dickens Holiday lures thousands of townspeople and visitors, many of whom make this living history event an annual tradition. “People tell us that until they heard about A Dickens Holiday they would travel away to be with family,” says Mary Kinney, marketing director for the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, which is presenting the event along with downtown partners. “But now they invite family to come here and share this celebration.”
The first phase of fun runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., as Scrooge attempts to escape the haunting image of his greedy self, as people stroll the streets admiring old-fashioned shop windows and items fashioned by arts vendors. To capture the sights and sounds of the Victorian Christmas scene, people can also take a horse-drawn carriage ride, while listening to musicians in period dress along the route or stopping in at the TubaChristmas concert at Hay Street United Methodist Church.
Meet Father Christmas
One of the most popular family traditions at A Dickens Holiday is posing with Father Christmas in an authentic Victorian sleigh. “Many families have pictures dating back years, and some use the photo as their Christmas card,” Kinney explains. Another must-see is the Gingerbread Community of Hope exhibit of fanciful creations by local people that benefits the Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity.
Four years ago the event added Annie’s Alehouse, a recreated Victorian pub where people can order beer, wine or nonalcoholic cider and enjoy lively Celtic music. “It’s been a big hit,” Kinney notes. Downtown restaurants are also open, offering A Dickens Holiday menu in addition to their usual fare.
Candlelight and Fireworks
As darkness settles in and the clock strikes five, everyone receives a candle and processes toward the Market House, led by Queen Victoria in her carriage and wedge of bagpipers. “Every year people spontaneously start singing Christmas carols as they walk,” Kinney says. Once everyone reaches the Market House, the town crier issues proclamations from the balcony and urges townspeople to cheer. Scrooge undergoes his change of heart and fireworks burst forth, ushering in Dickens After Dark, with the fun continuing until 9 p.m.
Step back in time to a Victorian Christmas. Call your local AAA Travel Agent at 800-398-0379 or visit AAA.com to plan your trip.
(Go Magazine Nov/Dec 2017)