coverTraditions. We all have them. And for the city of Fayetteville, A Dickens Holiday is a can’t-miss celebration that kicks off the holiday season. Every year, the Friday after Thanksgiving, Downtown Fayetteville turns into a Victorian-era celebration of the Christmas holidays. This year, on Nov. 25, join the Arts Council Fayetteville/Cumberland County, the Downtown Alliance and all of the Downtown Fayetteville establishments for a taste of what life was like when things weren’t so high-tech and hectic. The fun lasts from 1-9 p.m. 

“A Dickens Holiday is maybe the best feel-good event of the year in our community,” said Arts Council Executive Director Deborah Mintz. “The hearts and hopes of thousands of people seem to come together during the event”, she added.

There is plenty to do at the event, including a few new things, but those tried and true favorites will be there, too. “A Dickens Holiday is full of wonderful traditions, and often I am asked what is new this year,” said Marketing Director Mary Kinney. “And we do have some new things. But we have people who come every year, and we have been doing this for 17 years. When it comes to A Dickens Holiday, it is so rooted in tradition. And for the holidays people tend to look for the same things year after year. That is what makes them traditions. It is part of what makes them special. We are adding on some things and we like to mix it up, but we are aware and respectful of the fact that for many people, the traditions are important.”

A stroll down Hay Street showcases citizens in period attire. Along with roving characters reliving scenes from the Dickens book A Christmas Carol that witness Marley and Scrooge at various stages of the story, including Scrooge’s conversion, right in the heart of downtown.

A photo with Father Christmas is the perfect way to preserve the magic of A Dickens Holiday forever. There is no age limit, you simply must be young at heart to enjoy a few moments in a Victorian sleigh posing for a wholesome photo with one of the season’s icons. It’s $6 per print or $15 for three. They are printed on-site. Father Christmas will be in attendance from 1-8:30 p.m.

Nothing warms the soul – and the fingers – like a steaming hot cider accompanied by tasty gingerbread. Look for different locations on Hay Street to find this decadent treat. 

New this year is a thematic juggler who will be entertaining his way up and down Hay Street.

Gingerbread houses are nothing new this time of year, but H&H Homes and Fayetteville Area’s Habitat for Humanity have put a new spin on gingerbread real estate with the Community of Hope. It is an entire gingerbread village on display. From schools and shops to municipal buildings, and yes, houses are all included in the display. Come cast your vote and root for your favorite design.

Families are invited to Fascinate-U Children’s Museum from 1-6 p.m. to make a Victorian ornament .

At 4 p.m., stop by Hay Street United Methodist Church to take in Tuba Christmas.

The Museum of the Cape Fear’s Poe House will be open for tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and decked out in Victorian Christmas décor. 

Enjoy a ride in a horse-drawn carriage and get a look at Downtown Fayetteville from a different perspective. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children. 

Tickets go on sale at noon at 222 Hay Street on Nov. 25. Or, for a longer and more personal experience, head to the Transportation and Local History Museum for a ride in a Queen Victoria carriage. Tickets are $15 per person. Call 678-8899 for tickets and information.

Learn more about the Victorian era and what life was like for locals during that time. This Victorian Life exhibit is on the second floor of the Market House. The displays include literature, military items, a Victorian Christmas tree and other items that give the visitor a better understanding about how Victorians celebrated Christmas. There is also an interactive aspect to the display. The exhibit is open from 1-9 p.m.

Annie’s Ale House, a Victorian-era pub, will be set up inside the Arts Council. Stop by during the day for a libation and to shop for local art at the Transformation: Recycling Reclaimed Objects exhibit. The Fisk Jubilee Singers are performing at 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. These are historical tributes to the Fisk Jubilee Singers of the 1800s that entertained Queen Victoria. In the evening, the pub gets a bit rowdier with performances by the Belfast Boys. “It’s sure to have your toes tapping,” said Kinney.

Visitors to A Dickens Holiday are encouraged to come dressed in period costumes. New this year is a chance to win a prize for the best costume. Head over to the Rainbow Room to enter the contest. While you are there, add a link to the Chain of Good Cheer. “People are invited to write thoughts of cheer, joy, and hope on slips of paper. This will be linked together to form a large Chain of Good Cheer,” said Kinney. “The chain will stay on display downtown through the holidays. The point is compiling these wonderful sentiments from the attendees.” 

Around 5:30 p.m. everyone gathers at the Arts Council for the candlelight procession to the Market House. Candles are available at selected merchants downtown and at the Arts Council while supplies last. The procession concludes with a tree lighting ceremony and fireworks. But that is not the end of the evening. “When you go to an event with fireworks, the fireworks are typically the culmination of the festivities,” said Kinney. “At A Dickens Holiday, it is really the kick-off of Dickens after dark.” 

There is still plenty of time to shop, visit the Community of Hope Gingerbread display to see who won top honors for their structure, grab a bite to eat and visit Annie’s Alehouse for some entertainment.

Find out more about A Dickens Holiday at www.theartscouncil.com/dickensmain  or call the Arts Council at 323-1776 to learn more.

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