So, been at the Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco the past two weekends. A spirited recreation of the London of 1840’s to 1860’s as depicted in so many versions of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. But the odd thing about it, besides having been around long enough to celebrate 35 years of holiday cheer, is that people pay good money, dress in period costumes (or close enough) and come to share in the festivities.
Yes, I know that these folks really don’t travel back to London of those years. After all, this event takes place in what at times of the year is home to livestock exhibitions. And while that may not provide the smell of feel of what London offered visitors during the winter solstice of those times, you won’t find enthusiasm dimmed in the least.
Quite the contrary! People come to feast, to drink, to shop to dance and in general, just to have a good time. All while sharing the experience with fellow guests and performers. All playing from the lowest of the low of characters to the most noble. You find every bit of society on these streets and lanes set up inside the exhibition halls. Good Queen Victoria is on the throne with Prince Albert at her side, watching over the British Empire. For it is Christmas Eve in London, and few can resist the charms of the day.
Yes, plenty of “nostalgic’s” among the crowd. The folks in search of a simpler time. But you can also see friends together enjoying a seasonal bit of fun. Families all in costume, taking in the shopping, games and entertainments. Folks of all sorts just sharing the good times with each other.
It is a bit more than the usual holiday get together. You usually don’t find such immersive gatherings around the egg nog. Sure, plenty of parties may include Christmas carols being sung or a kiss under the mistletoe, but dressing the part and speaking in your own version of a London accent probably isn’t on the schedule of events.
Call it what you will, but the secret is that deep down, the spirit of play has a large and happy part in this shared experience. That draws people back year after year. Even for only a few hours, the chance to leave the cares of the modern world behind and settle into the holidays as Mr. Dickens brought them to his readers, is a powerful tonic.
Yes, sharing such experiences is a pleasure enjoyed by many. Hence the popularity of places such as the late, lamented Adventurers Club or larger than that, the Disney Theme Parks round the world. Friends and family, all taking in the joys of it all – together.
Works pretty well, doesn’t it?