Celebrating the Spirit of Christmas with Charles Dickens
Every year, people lament the lack of true Christmas spirit. This is nothing new. In fact, Charles Dickens, who would have turned 200 this year, wrote the definitive novel on the subject. And thanks to the timeless message of his popular story, A Christmas Carol, his name has become almost synonymous with reviving the real essence of the Holiday. New York State brings this message home with a variety of traditional annual Dickens Christmas events that remind everyone, including shoppers, about the meaning behind all the presents.
One of the biggest annual celebrations is Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles, in the Finger Lakes region. This annual tradition, now in its 19th year, begins the day after Thanksgiving and runs from noon to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through December 24. Here, Charles Dickens and his cast of over 50 characters populate the streets, shops and restaurants, interacting with visitors and residents. They also act out scenes from a Christmas Carol on the steps of the Masonic Temple at set times every day. The air is alive with performances by choral groups, musical ensembles and Christmas carol sing-alongs. Children especially enjoy carriage rides around the village and special kids programs at the Skaneateles Library, while free roasted chestnuts and other treats fortify shoppers.
In addition, on December 13, Charles Dickens and Company will perform an interactive rendition of A Christmas Carol as part of a "Dinner with Dickens and Friends" at Mirbeau. Priced at $55 for adults; $20 for children under 14, the evening will feature a traditional English prime rib dinner with special child-friendly options available for youngsters.
For more information, visit www.skaneateles.com or contact the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce at 315-685-0552.
Another long time holiday favorite is the annual Charles Dickens Festival in the Village of Port Jefferson on Long Island. Now in its 17th year, the festival is set for November 30 to December 2, when the village streets and shops come alive with Dickens' characters, Victorian entertainment and special foods. Days are filled with carriage rides, shopping, concerts and Victorian entertainment, while evenings bring a lantern-lit house tour of historic homes and, on Friday, the popular Victorian-themed Crystal Ball, where revelers can dress in period Victorian or Holiday attire.
For more information, visit www.portjeffchamber.com or contact the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce at 631-473-1414.
The story itself is the focus of a performance by master storyteller Jonathan Kruk, who performs Dickens's Christmas Carol with musical accompaniment in the Old Dutch Church, thought to be the oldest church in the state. Located in the town of Sleepy Hollow in the historic Hudson Valley region, the church is just across the street from Philipsburg Manor, which provides parking for the event. The performance will take place this year on November 23 and 24 and on December 1, 8, 15 and 22. Tickets are required ($16 for adults; $12 for children under 18).
For more information, visit http://www.hudsonvalley.org or contact Historic Hudson Valley at 914-631-8200.
By popular demand, a music and dance-filled adaptation of A Christmas Carol, will be presented again this year, running from November 23 to December 23 at the Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, NY. The story was adapted and directed by the theater's Artistic Director Mark Cuddy and features original music and lyrics by Gregg Coffin. Located in the Finger Lakes region, the theater is the city's leading professional performance venue.
For more information, visit www.gevatheatre.org or phone 585-232-4382.
Audiences will be transported back to the 19th century as Mark Randall recreates a performance of "Charles Dickens Presents: A Christmas Carol" which was originally presented by Dickens himself at St. James Hall in nearby Buffalo in 1868. Randall's two-act performance of the program has become an annual favorite. This year's show will take place on December 18 at the Springville Center for the Arts, in Springville, located in the Greater Niagara region, less than an hour outside Buffalo.
For cynics who lament the commercialization of Christmas, these Dickens-focused reminders of the joy of giving are a welcome addition to the Holiday season.
For more information, visit http://springvillearts.org/ or phone 716-592-9038.
More information on Holiday Season events in New York State can be found at www.iloveny.com.
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