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THE CHARLES DICKENS CHRISTMAS CAROL WALK

Ding, Dong, Merrily on Eye!

An illustration of Fezziwig's feast.

YOUR GUIDE WILL BE ATTIRED IN VICTORIAN COSTUME

The walk takes place on selected Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 11am and 1.30pm.

GOD BLESS US, EVERY ONE!

This Christmas, why not blow away the cobwebs of Christmas present by enjoying a leisurely and informative stroll through the streets of Christmas past?

Charles Dickens wearing a Santa hat.

Richard's yuletide Dickens walks have, over recent years, become a firm seasonal fixture in London and, for 2017, he will be offering the ultimate tour through the very streets where the narrative of that perennial festive favourite A Christmas Carol unfolded.

They offer you the opportunity to get out onto the streets of London and walk in the footsteps of the man who, although he may not, as is often claimed, actually have invented Christmas, certainly played a major role in establishing the blueprint as to how it should be celebrated.

And the Dickens Christmas Carol walk is a tour de force for which Richard dons Victorian costume and invites you to join him on a journey through the streets, alleyways and courts of 19th century London

MARLEY WAS DEAD TO BEGIN WITH

It's Christmas Eve 1843, and London is in the grip of a swirling, thick fog - an out and out pea souper.

A group of Victorian Carol singers.

Candles are flaring in the windows of the Victorian offices, like ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air, as we delve into a muddled maze of narrow alleyways that nestle at the very heart of the old and historic City of London.

Suddenly, the noise and the rush of the 21st century have faded to a distant murmur as we find ourselves standing in a flag-stoned courtyard where it doesn't take a great leap of the imagination to picture the Victorian men and women wheezing their way through this time-washed thoroughfare, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement-stones to warm them.

THE STORY BEHIND A CHRISTMAS CAROL

As the gas lamps struggle to penetrate the gloom, you might well encounter a lone figure, his face and neck muffled against the chill December air, moving stealthily through the twilight.

Ebenezer Scrooge walking through the streets of London.

His name is Ebenezer Scrooge and he is heading home from his counting house - located in the very alleyways you are walking through - on his way to a Christmas Eve encounter that will transform him from a tight-fisted, squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching and covetous old sinner into a paragon of virtuousness and charity.

Thus do we make our merry way through Stave One of our Christmas Traditions walk to lose ourselves amidst a veritable warren of enchanting alleyways that have changed little, if at all, since Dickens sought inspiration in them.

Richard will tell you the story of how Dickens came to write A Christmas Carol and of the real life counterparts upon whom its immortal characters were based.

Indeed, you will learn how Scrooge incorporated certain traits and characteristics of Dickens himself and how episodes from his own childhood lay behind the fictional one that the ghost of Christmas Past took Scrooge back to.

You will also discover how Dickens, during the writing of this festive masterpiece, "walked about the black streets of London fifteen or twenty miles many a night when all sober folks had gone to bed."

And, all this will be revealed amidst surroundings of the very streets that Dickens "walked about" and which are so untouched by time that they could easily provide the backdrop for a television or movie version of A Christmas Carol.

WHAT HAVE THE VICTORIANS EVER DONE FOR US?

Having picked our way through this picturesque warren of ancient alleyways and passages, we venture into Victorian London's most beautiful market, which dates from 1881 and which always looks particularly festive at this time of year, resplendent as it is with colourful Christmas decorations and a staggeringly impressive Christmas tree.

A party scene from A Christmas Carol

Which makes for the perfect location at which to discuss some of the other Christmas traditions that came to us courtesy of the Victorian era.

The Christmas tree itself, for example. Or the custom of sending Christmas cards - in fact, as you will hear, Dickens himself played a role in the creation of the postal system that made the annual custom of sending Christmas cards possible. Christmas crackers, are another indispensible tradition that came into being in the 19th century.

Even the giving of gifts, which no Christmas would be complete without, was a Victorian adaptation of what had been a New Year tradition.

Yes indeed, the Victorians may not have invented Christmas but they certainly commercialised it!

BOILED WITH YOUR OWN PUDDING

Then, of course, there are the girth expanding feasts that we are all so partial to at this time of the year. The turkey, the trimmings, the Christmas pudding and the mince pies that we sit down to enjoy on the day of days.

Again we can thank the Victorians for these.

But how many of us would have the constitution, or even the inclination, to wash it all down with a seething bowl of gin punch or a steaming glass of Smoking Bishop?

THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAYED

Of course, today we can end the feast by collapsing in front of the television. But the age of Dickens was a pre-electric age when people had little choice but to make their own entertainments. And make them they, well and truly, did!

A family playing the old Victorian Parlour game of Snap-Dragon

Parlour games were the order of the day, and Richard will introduce you to a veritable raft of riotous fun as he explains the skills required to play the likes of Are you there Moriarty?; Shadow Buff; Prussian Exercises; Snap-Dragon; Forfeits and Reverend Crawley's Game, the outcome of which has been described as being "truly bizarre and counter-intuitive."

And, from Christmas 1843 onwards, central to how the Victorians celebrated the festive season, was Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol.

It was instrumental in popularising and spreading the traditions of the festival, whilst its themes of family, charity, goodwill, peace and happiness came to encapsulate the spirit of the Victorian Christmas, and are, in many ways, still very much a part of the Christmas we celebrate today.

So join Richard (Ebenezer) Jones for a fun and fascinating stroll through the lanes and alleyways of Victorian London where you will learn much about the history of Christmas and gain a vivid insight into the book that, more than any other, helped shape the way that Christmas was, is and long will be celebrated.

Now, where's my bowl of gruel?

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