We all have branches on our family tree that we'd rather forget about: Uncle Freddy who always gets sauced at Thanksgiving, Great Aunt Myrna with the garish make-up and tropical mumus and that distant ancestor who had more than a few run-ins with the law.
Then there are the lucky ones, those who can trace their lineage back to the greats of yesteryear. English novelist Charles Dickens garnered great literary success with The Adventures of Oliver Twist, Great Expectations and the perennial favorite, A Christmas Carol, and now several of his descendants will be front and center during Galveston's world-famous Victorian holiday festival, Dickens on The Strand.
Advance revelers should check out the swanky champagne reception at the 1892 Bishop's Palace on November 30 with Lucinda Dickens Hawksley (Dickens' great-great-great-granddaughter) and Jane Dickens Monk (her late father, Cedric Dickens, was the great grandson of Charles).
Dickens on The Strand officially kicks off December 1 with new and expanded events. "What we are doing new this year, we’re calling it a Dickens Soiree," says Will Wright, director of communications and special events for the Galveston Historical Foundation. "That is going to feature all of our Dickens descendants: Mark Charles Dickens — he hasn't been here for 11 years — he is coming back this year along with Lucinda and Jane. He’s going to do a reading of A Christmas Carol. We'll have entertainers around the house and grounds, appetizers, drinks. It's a crazy cocktail party throughout the Bishop's Palace."
Also new is a Saturday night screening of The Muppet Christmas Carol ("It's good to be heckling again."), a free copy of The Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of Home for the first 2,000 children (up to age 12) and a Sunday costume contest for Dickens characters. "The descendants will judge. I bet we see a lot of Scrooges and ghosts," says Wright.
Returning favorites include the Saturday afternoon costume contest with judging for best Victorian woman (full skirts and petticoats), best Victorian man (top hat and waistcoat), best Victorian family and best steampunk (sci-fi meets 19th century). Also on Saturday are two parades and Albert's Whimsical Whisker Revue. Sunday highlights include the Queen's Parade and the ever-popular Victorian bed races.
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There's plenty for the 21 and up crowd, too. "We’ve got our pubs scattered throughout the festival; there are six pubs on the grounds. Our sunset party will have Saint Arnold there," says Wright, about the Saturday afternoon Salute to Sunset on the 1877 Elissa. "Our Fezziwig [event] Friday night; that's free admission for everyone downtown at Fezziwig Hall."
The taps will be flowing along the architectural tours, too. "Those are in conjunction with Saint Arnold. We do basic walking tours of The Strand and you get three complimentary beers while walking, or later in the day," says Wright of the mini pub crawl.
Insider tip: Wearing a Victorian-themed costume gets you into the festival for just $8, children ages six and under get in for free.
Dickens on The Strand runs 5 to 9 p.m. December 1, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. December 2, noon to 6 p.m. December 3, Strand National Historic Landmark District, Galveston, 409-765-7834, dickensonthestrand.org, free to $15.