Dickens of a Christmas: What’s new with this year’s event

Ohio Village is hosting Dickens of a Christmas which is a holiday celebration. Credit: Maya Neyman | Lantern File Photo

This holiday season, Ohio Village will introduce creative new activities to its annual Dickens of a Christmas event through Dec. 18.

Dickens of a Christmas is a historical display of 19th-century Christmas traditions and celebrations as seen through the eyes of famous author Charles Dickens and others of the time period. Located at 800 E. 17th Ave., Ohio Village will host the reenactment Saturdays from 5:30-9 p.m. and Sundays from 1-5 p.m.

Activities will include holiday parlor games and music, shadow puppet performances, a watch night service and a winter holiday puppet workshop. For the first time this year, Dickens of a Christmas will also host a 12th night party to showcase how people of the 19th century celebrated the end of the Christmas season and “What the Dickens?” — a chat with Charles Dickens and his wife. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet these characters and other holiday favorites, such as Santa Claus and Ebeneezer Scrooge.

Andrew Hall, senior experience developer for Ohio Village, said he works to manage the historical accuracy of Ohio Village and its characters, interpreters and mock celebrations. Hall said the celebration calls on old Christmas traditions to complete the event.

“12th night is — even by 1890s standards — an old-fashioned Christmas-type celebration,” Hall said.

Complete with parlor games and a 12th night cake — a fruit cake with prizes, such as beans or thimbles, hidden inside — the event is a mixture of modern and antiquated tradition, as families in Louisiana and other parts of the world continue to celebrate 12th night today, Hall said.

Additionally, Hall and his wife will be portraying Charles and Catherine Dickens in the premiere of the “What the Dickens?” program.

“We’ll be talking about the way that they celebrated the holidays, what their relationship was like with Christmas, Dickens’ inspiration for even writing about Christmas in the first place,” Hall said. “As well as just sharing some anecdotes and stories about the interesting life that the two of them led together.”

Neil Thompson, manager of media and public relations at the Ohio History Connection, said the show’s interactive nature makes it worth visiting.

“There will be a question-and-answer session for visitors, so it’s interactive,” Hall said. “It’s a chance to read more into the event than just going and seeing festive holiday things. It’s a chance to have an opportunity to participate and engage in participatory learning.”

Ohio Village is one of many sites and museums across Ohio partnered with Ohio History Connection, a nonprofit organization designed to preserve Ohio history, Hall said. Dickens of a Christmas is an example of how Ohio History Connection involves Ohio communities in both the past and the present, Hall said.

“Our hope is to welcome people into the village, into a warm and inviting atmosphere where they can have a lot of fun with their families, or just by themselves, and learn a little bit about themselves and their own traditions but also learn about traditions that other people practiced that they may not know about,” Hall said.

Thompson said there is an apparent educational appeal of Charles Dickens and Christmastime in the Victorian Era.

“What gives Dickens of a Christmas character is that it’s based on the historical integrity of presenting these holiday traditions as they would have been in the 1890s,” Thompson said. “And there’s something that’s almost magical about that nostalgia, about that portrayal of these holiday traditions, many of which we still embrace today.”

Hall said Ohio State students who celebrate other religious holidays can also attend Dickens of a Christmas and find comfort in the 19th-century versions of their traditions — including the village’s Jewish bakery which represents what Hanukkah celebrations in the late 1800s would look like — he said.

“It’s an opportunity for Columbus residents as well as Ohio State students to really learn about other cultures, learn about the importance of different rituals, different practices,” Hall said. “And that just builds better empathy, better understanding for all of our other fellow central Ohio residents.”

Thompson said Ohio State students and other young adults should attend the Dickens of a Christmas watch night, which commemorates the Emancipation Proclamation, to gain insight into different perspectives on the holiday.

“What it will do is it will convey how and why members of the African American community participated in this service and how it ties to Christmas season,” he says. “There’s a chance here for some solemn reflection and learning about the social issues of the time that still resonate today.”

Hall said he’s excited about the annual service as well.

“Watch night is a really interesting cultural aspect from the 19th century that is actually still celebrated today,” Hall said.

The watch night service has ties to the African American community and will focus on attendees’ deliberations of the past and upcoming year, Hall said.

Both Hall and Thompson also praise the event’s Christmas card decorating activity where participants can hand-tint replicas of Victorian-Era postcards.

“They are just the most bizarre things in the world,” Hall said.“Sometimes they don’t look like they have anything to do with Christmas, but it’s part of that cultural sense of humor that we just don’t quite understand anymore. But it’s still interesting to learn about.”

Students can register for the event on Ohio History Connection’s website. Tickets for children ages four to 12 are $14, and adults are $18.

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