If it’s November, it’s time for Dickens fairs! These mid-Victorian London-inspired events pay homage to 19th century author Charles Dickens and the wonderful characters he created. The fairs are popular throughout England and the USA. Each one has its own signature, but all embody the spirit of the time. Here are a few Dickens Fairs for your consideration.
Dickens Fairs in the UK
Last weekend in November, first weekend in December, Grassington
“Nestled in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, the picturesque village of Grassington is transported back to the time of Dickens, with shopkeepers, villagers and visitors dressed in Victorian costume. Just imagine soaking up the festive atmosphere of the cobbled streets, with a warming mulled wine or hot chocolate, next to the festive glow of an open brazier.
There is a full entertainment programme over two weekends, with bands, buskers and Victorian street entertainers and for the children, a chance to meet Santa in his hideaway grotto and to take part in a torchlit nativity procession.
Grassington offers a fantastic festive shopping experience, with a traditional Christmas Market in the village square and all the shops brimming with stunning Christmas gift ideas.
When you have worked up an appetite, you will be spoilt for choice with the delicious food served by the pubs, cafes, hotels and outdoor stalls.
So come along and join in a fabulous family day out in Yorkshire. Even Scrooge couldn’t fail to be impressed!”
The first full weekend of December, Rochester
Friday starts with the Mistletoe Ball, a dinner and dance in the finest Dickens Victorian tradition. It’s a great opportunity to dress in your finest Dickensian attire and have some fun!
The festivities continue on Saturday and Sunday with costumed characters from the novels of Charles Dickens, lamp-lit parades, an open-air carol concerts that encourages audience participation, Father Christmas, and they even guarantee snowfall!
Second Sunday in December, Olney
“Dickens of a Christmas brings a taste of Victorian England to Olney.
This very popular event attracts many visitors to enjoy the sense of days gone by. Stall holders dress in costume of the era, selling all manner of merchandise, filling the town from the Market Place and the length of the High Street, offering many opportunities to purchase Christmas presents as well as supporting local charities.
Craft fairs can be found in The Olney Centre and library and The Carlton House Club.
Enjoy the old-fashioned fair, street organ entertainers, singers and the Olney Brass Band.”
First weekend in December, Sudbury
- “Kentwell’s Dickensian Christmas is a wonderful day out for the whole family, with a huge amount to see and do.
- Victorian Household – it is 1869 in our lovely moated Hall – meet the Victorian Family and their Staff
- Visit Father Christmas or St Nicholas (for children)
- Mr. Dickens reads an abridged version of his ‘A Christmas Carol’, complete with Victorian special effects (please note this takes place upstairs, where we have no lift)
- Enter the magical World Beyond the Wardrobe, where a popular story is brought to life.
- Train to be an Elf at the Elf and Safety Training School and assault course (for children)
- Enjoy our Music Hall & Magic Show (please note this takes place upstairs, where we have no lift)
- Visit the Victorian Tavern and play traditional table games while you refresh your thirst (please note this is upstairs, where we have no lift)
- Victorian Villagers – in sharp contrast, find out how the ‘other half’ lived!
- Make a Christmas Decoration a craft for the family to make together
- Tearoom and Grill serving refreshments all day, plus lunches
- Join in with the Carols by Lantern in the Christmas Courtyard at the end of the day
- “Even though we thought the tickets were quite expensive, it was very good value. It really was a whole day’s worth of entertainment and activities.”
Dickens Fairs in the USA
Five weekends spanning the end of November through just before Christmas, Cow Palace, Daly City, California
Perhaps the biggest Dickens fair in the USA is the one that takes place yearly at the Cow Palace, near San Francisco, California.
“The Great Dickens Christmas Fair is a one-of-a-kind holiday adventure into Victorian London – an elaborate party with hundreds of costumed players performing and interacting with patrons in over 120,000 square feet of theatrically-lit music halls, pubs, dance floors, and Christmas shops. It’s a twilight evening in Charles Dickens’ London Town – a city of winding lanes filled with colorful characters from both literature and history. Enticing aromas of roasted chestnuts and hearty foods fill the air. Cries of street vendors hawking their wares ring out above the bustling crowd. Dozens of lamplit shops are filled to overflowing with Christmas gifts. The Dickens Christmas Fair is a treasured Bay Area tradition since 1970 and a splendid way to celebrate the holidays.”
Weekend before Thanksgiving in Salt Lake City, Utah
First Weekend in December, St. George, Utah
“The Dickens’ Festival is not just another craft show, but a unique and unusual entertainment and shopping experience. Olde English shops, hundreds of period costumes, fortune tellers, orphans, royalty, and the REAL Father Christmas all combine to offer our guests a Christmas experience like no other!
We carefully select each of our vendors to ensure a completely unique market experience set in the Victorian Era. As you wander through the streets of Olde London, you will see each of our vendors with vintage booths and dressed in Victorian dresses, hats, and trousers. Each of our vendors dresses the part as you wander through the streets of Olde London. You may even encounter Queen Victoria herself!”
Three weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas in Holly, Michigan
Food, fun, a community singalong, and a lighted night parade! Immerse yourself in Victorian England in historic downtown Holly!
Friday-Sunday, first full weekend in December, Galveston, Texas
“Dickens on The Strand, based on 19th-century Victorian London, features parades, non-stop entertainment on four stages, new additions like Tiny Tim’s Play Land, Shopkeeper Skills Village, and roaming characters throughout the festival. Costumed vendors peddle their wares from street stalls and rolling carts laden with holiday food and drink, Victorian-inspired crafts, clothing, jewelry, holiday decorations, and gift items.”
Third weekend in December, Franklin, Tennessee
“The festival will recreate the time of Charles Dickens using historic downtown Franklin’s Victorian architecture as the backdrop. Some 200 musicians, dancers and characters will fill the streets, including several from Charles Dickens’s stories. Expect to see and interact with the nefarious Fagin from Oliver Twist; Jacob Marley, Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim Cratchit with his parents from A Christmas Carol; and of course, a Victorian Father and Mother Christmas with treats for children.”
Annually in February, Riverside, California
Although this one is a bit different than the holiday-inspired Dickens fairs, this festival is a must-know for all Charles Dickens fans.
“Celebrating the life and works of author Charles Dickens and his impact on society, our Dickens Fest is the brainchild of a small group of people who wanted to promote the cultural arts. Many vendors sell Victorian-era clothing in case guests feel inspired to dress up. There is also traditional food from across the pond, including fish and chips, meat pies, Scones, Welsh cakes, Scotch eggs and of course Tea.”
Do you enjoy dressing in Victorian clothing? Do you know someone who does? Recollections offers a variety of Victorian styles in a wide selection of fabrics. Here’s an example.