Literary Events & Festivals to attend this December
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
December is a time for Dickens, or that's how things usually go. Each December, countless cities across the world host Dickens-inspired events and festivals. This year, most festivals have been canceled or moved online, but there are still many bookish happenings and literary events still going ahead this year.
Check out these bookish holiday events happening in-person and virtually this month. Which will you attend?
In person events:
Christmas with the Austens
Dec. 3 - Jan. 6
Jane Austen's house will be decked out for Christmas with special Holiday audio in each room, including novel excerpts, letters, and the recipe for mince pie, according to their website. They are hoping to be able to reopen once lockdown limits are lifted in England. The house will feature special audio recordings done by Dame Emma Thompson!
NightWood at the Mount
Now - Jan 3 @ 5-8 pm
Visit Edith Wharton's home, The Mount, and take a beautiful walk through the woods. NightWood is an "outdoor sound and light experience" that will "immerse visitors in a series of vignettes designed to evoke elements of fantasy, mystery, and whimsy." Get more details here.
Festival of Trees at the home of Pearl S. Buck
Now- Dec. 30
"The event showcases beautiful trees and vignettes designed by Bucks County’s best artists, decorators, and local community groups to convey the spirit of Pearl S. Buck’s legacy as an author, humanitarian, and activist. Visitors have the opportunity to vote for their favorite display. Even though this year will look a little different due to COVID-19 protocols, the Festival of Trees remains one of the most unique and historic holiday traditions in the region."
Tours are limited to groups of 5. Book your tickets here.
London Walk: Explore the Places that inspired Oliver Twist
Dec. 6 @ 11 am GMT
Hosted by the Dickens Museum in London, take a walk through London seeing the places that inspired one of Dickens' most famous novels, Oliver Twist. 90-minute walking tour starts at Dickens' home. Tickets are £10.
Find a virtual showing of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Going to see a live production of the Charles Dickens classic is a great way to get into the Christmas spirit. This year, check out streaming productions of the story from one of these performance groups. Note there are so many going on this year, and this is only a sample:
- Guthrie Theater $10 per household
- American Shakespeare Center sliding scale from $20-100, pay what you can
- Alley Theater free to Houstonians, donation encouraged
- Charleston Stage donations $10+
- Manual Cinema (this one sounds really unique!) tickets start at $15
- Joseph Rountree Theatre ticket prices not listed
- Open Stage (pay what you will donations starting at $0)
Did you know you can even stream a performance of the play filmed inside Dickens' actual home in London? Join on Dec. 17 @ 7pm; 20th at 2pm; or 31st at 7 pm (all GMT). Tickets are £15.
If you'd prefer a dramatic reading of the original text over a play, you can attend one virtually on Christmas Eve here for £3 on eventbrite, a reading called A Dealthy Dark Christmas Carol on Facebook Live on December 13th for $9.99, or perhaps best of all, you can attend a virtual live reading by actor Dominic Gerrard from Charles Dickens' home on Dec. 23 at 3 pm GMT.
Prelude to a Carol: Dickens Creates a Christmas Classic
Dec. 9-19 on Wed. Fri. Sat. at 7pm CST
In the tradition of Charles Dickens himself, who traveled around the world speaking and in some ways performing his latest novel, this production features an actor as Dickens talking about how his most famous work came to be. Each performance will be live via zoom (as opposed to pre-recorded).
Tickets are $25 per household on eventbrite (note that each date is in a different event, so you might have to search around).
The London of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
Multiple dates, now - Dec 31 @ 10 pm GMT
A charming virtual tour of Dickens' London led by actor Richard Burnip. The event on eventbrite says they will take you to Bob Cratchit's icy slide, Jacob Marley's burial place, the city church bells, and more. Tickets are £8 on eventbrite and some dates are already selling out.
Skaneateles presents "A Distant Dickens Christmas"
Saturdays and Sundays throughout December from 12-4 pm
The town of Skaneateles, New York is usually the place to be at Christmas with its all-out annual Dickens festival. This year, they received the following announcement from Mr. Charles Dickens:
“Dearest Readers, it is with great sadness I must report the current plague has prohibited our personal visit to the Village this season. However, I am thrilled to announce that Queen Victoria, Myself, Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge, and various surprise guests will populate the festivities on the ethereal plane of our Facebook and Instagram realms! Please join the fun of A Distant Dickens Christmas hosted by the Skaneateles Foundation!
Your faithful servant, Charles Dickens. God bless us, everyone!”
Literary Trivia: Holiday Edition
Dec. 1 (today)
Join a virtual trivia night with questions written by librarians. The topic is holiday-themed books, movies, and music. Registration fees are on a sliding scale, with 100% of the fees supporting the Nashville Public Library. Sign up as an individual or as a team.
Virtual Exploration of New York Society Library, NYC's oldest library
Dec. 4 @ 5:30 pm EST
Their eventbrite even description explains: "From getting looted by British soldiers during the American Revolution to George Washington forgetting to return two books (c'mon, George!), one New York City membership library dating back to 1754 has been through it all. But how has a book collection managed to keep its doors open for over 250 years? It's time to uncover the secrets of New York City's oldest library like never before."
After the virtual tour, there will be a Q&A with a library staff member. The full replay will be available for a week after the event. Tickets are $10 on eventbrite.
Booklover's Burlesque: Cozy Classics
Dec. 5 @ 7 pm PST
Well this is not an event I thought I'd ever see. The event description reads, "Professional readers, actors, and/or authors & writers read aloud a short literary excerpt, which is then followed by a burlesque performance inspired by the piece." It obviously won't be to everyone's taste, but if you're looking for something untraditionally bookish to do this holiday season, and if you're curious about how this group has interpreted classic novels as a virtual Burlesque show, then this will be right up your alley! Tickets are $15 on eventbrite.
Emily Dickinson Virtual Birthday Celebration
Dec. 10 @ 12 pm EST
"On Thursday, December 10, join us for an afternoon of fun including a team bake of Dickinson’s famous Black Cake, a make-at-home craft demo, and screenings of videos from our “My Emily Dickinson” collecting project, and finally the singing of the birthday song." Tickets are free, but pre-registration is required.
Virtual Emily Dickinson Tribute Program from the Folger Shakespeare Library
Dec. 10 @ 7:30 pm
This event will include a virtual tour of Dickinson's bedroom and a poetry reading of Emily Dickinson's poems as well as some by poet Dorianne Laux. Tickets are donation-based, from $5-15.
How Washington Irving Saved Christmas
Dec. 12 @ 4 pm EST
Most people think of Charles Dickens as "the man who invented Christmas." They even made a movie about it, after all! But while we most often theme Christmas literary events around A Christmas Carol, it was actually Washington Irving's stories of Christmas that inspired Charles Dickens to write his. Learn more about it at this illustrated virtual lecture. Tickets are $10 on eventbrite.
Virtual Talk: Dickens and Christmas by Lucinda Dickens Hawksley
Dec. 13 @ 5:30 pm GMT
Author of the book Dickens and Christmas, Lucinda Dickens Hawksley will talk about how Dickens' family celebrated Christmas and how his stories impact how we celebrate today. Tickets are £8.
Take a Virtual Christmas Tour with the Housemaid at Charles Dickens' Home
Dec. 15 & 19th, various times
"Step back in time to Christmas 1838… Dickens and his young family are out enjoying the festivities and during their absence, the housemaid is up to no good…
Whilst they are attending a Christmas Ball at the home of Ms Burdett-Coutts, their housemaid takes a break from her many duties and invites you to step through the original door of 48 Doughty Street and discover the secrets of the esteemed young writer and his growing family."
Jane Austen virtual birthday tea party
Dec 16 @ 8 pm GMT
"Ticket holders will be treated to music, talks and readings by special guests, games, a ‘best bonnet’ competition and other general silliness! Regency attire strongly encouraged!" I've got my ticket and my costume for this all ready, and I can't wait!
Standard tickets are £10. Those who live in the UK can also purchase a goody bag for the event, including tea biscuits and some Jane Austen tea.
A Dickens Family Christmas
Dec. 22 @ 7:30 pm GMT
Join a Zoom call with members of Charles Dickens' extended family to talk about what Victorian Christmas traditions have endured in their family. Tickets are £15.
December Book Festivals
December is the start of the low season when it comes to book festivals, so there aren't typically not many to choose from even in a regular year. That's especially true this year with COVID. Here is the only online book festival I could find still taking place this month.
Dublin Book Festival in Dublin, Ireland
Already underway, this annual book festival has gone online this year as so many others have done. They have more than 40 events lined up. Most are free but do require advanced registration. Events are mostly themed, incorporating many books into one presentation, rather than just your average author interviews. Check out the full programme here.
Plan ahead for next year
Dickens on the Squares in Galveston, TX
Dickens Christmas Festival in St. George, UT
Rochester Dickens Festival in Rochester, UK
It's a Dickens Christmas, Y'all in Tuscumbia, Alabama
Pin this now to reference all month long!