Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-1870), with little formal education and a father confined to debtors’ prison, nevertheless became the most prolific and popular author of the Victorian Era.
His works have never gone out of print and have enjoyed countless adaptations over the years in multiple genres, including film, television and theatre. Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella, “A Christmas Carol,” has proven to be profoundly inspirational for more than 170 years for those who cherish the holiday season. This year, First Coast residents and visitors will be able to enjoy a new, unique and interactive introduction to Dickens and his world just in time for the holiday season.
Building on the considerable charms of its Victorian architecture, historic downtown Fernandina Beach soon will be like stepping into a Dickens novel. On the weekends from December 4-13, shop owners and restaurateurs will create a Dickensian holiday village on Centre Street. By creating a “walking village” where the visitors become parade participants, rather than simply spectators, Amy Lacroix of the Amelia Island Convention and Visitors Bureau hopes that “guests can slow their steps, and truly appreciate the unique sense of space and time offered by a small-town community for the holidays.” It’s a simple wish perhaps, but an important one that reinforces the timeless spirit of the holiday season. It’s a season that Dickens envisioned as “a kind, forgiving, charitable time…when men and women…open their hearts freely.”
“Our theme for this new holiday event,” says Lacroix, “is ‘wander and wonder.’ We hope to create an authentic, historic atmosphere reminiscent of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” through a combination of décor, music, performers, performances and vendors offering period-appropriate food and crafts.”
The weekend experience will include a movie marathon featuring favorite film adaptations of “A Christmas Carol,” as well as a visit by Old St. Nick. In addition, the Florida Little Theatre on Beech Street in Fernandina Beach will be premiering a production of “A Christmas Carol” from December 5-12. Kevin Breen, a native of Liverpool, England, is one of the actors featured in the production. “We are very excited about these special performances,” says Breen, “because each of the players in our small cast will be responsible for multiple roles…I get to play five characters of my own!” While meandering down Centre Street, visitors should not be surprised to encounter actors and performers in Victorian garb over the course of the two weekends.
Combined with the Amelia Island Museum of History’s Holiday Home Tours and Amelia Island Bed & Breakfast Inns’ Holiday Cookie Tour already planned, visiting this quaint historic downtown during the holidays will be ripe with experiences to remind us of simpler times. When the holidays revolved around warm drink, baking, song, and the generosity of spirit. And perhaps the Dickens on Centre will become an experience which can encourage us all to embrace the serenity of family, friendship, and inspiration.