In Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge saw the error of his ways and vowed to keep Christmas in his heart all year long. That might be a bit much for the rest of us, but Galveston honors the holiday once a year in fitting fashion, with an English extravaganza called Dickens on the Strand.
You’ll hear no one saying “bah, humbug” here. The Victorian-themed event features parades, six entertainment stages, strolling carolers, and roving entertainers including musicians, bagpipers, and jugglers. Street stalls and carts staffed by appropriately attired vendors peddle holiday food and drink, crafts, clothing, jewelry, holiday decorations, and more.
The backdrop for all these festivities is The Strand, the city’s National Historic Landmark District, blocks of near-miraculously preserved buildings bearing architectural styles popular in Victorian times. Built in the mid- to late-1800s, these buildings were part of a prosperous business district that, along with the shipping channel and port, made Galveston the largest metropolis in the state for a time.
Dickens on The Strand begins on November 30 with a free party from 5-9 pm at Fezziwig’s Beer Hall on 22nd Street between Strand and Mechanic streets, featuring live entertainment and hearty ales. St. Arnold’s Architectural Walking Tours offers special circumnavigations of the district beginning at 7 pm on November 30, 11 am and 4:30 pm on December 1, and 4:30 pm on December 2.
The event traditionally invites one of Charles Dickens’ descendants, and this year Oliver "Ollie" Dickens, a British actor, attends to perform his ancestor’s best-loved Christmas tales. Also keep your eyes peeled for Father Christmas roaming the lighted streets along with Prince Albert, Queen Victoria, town criers, and other characters.
Other events include:
- Traditional English breakfast with great-great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens Jane Monk — December 1 at 8 am
- Cocktails and cannon fire aboard the Tall Ship Elissa in the Galveston Historic Seaport (transformed into a London wharf for the evening) — December 2 at 4:30 pm
- Festival of Lights — December 2
- Queen’s Parade — December 2 at 2 pm
- Annual Victorian Bed Race — December 2 at 4:30 pm
Galveston’s holiday festivities, including the buzzed about Miracle Bar pop-up, continue all month long, and include a lighting celebration, ice sculptures, and a festival of lights at Moody Gardens, sandhill crane tours, and decorated trolleys.
Stay in the heart of the action at The Tremont House, a hotel created in 1981 in the former Leon & H. Blum Building, built in 1879. For those who don’t want the merry-making to end, cross the street to the Quarters at the Tremont House, which house extended stay suites with full kitchens, living and dining space, and king-sized bedrooms.
Another lodging option with its own Dickens feel is the circa-1894 Belle of Ball Street, a three-story mansion that sleeps 16 and seats 13 at the dining room table. Tony and Eileen Benvegnu, who bought the house in 2015, decorate it for the holidays complete with a large tree.
If old Scrooge ever came to Galveston, no doubt he would once again say, “A merry Christmas to everybody!”