Here's How to Celebrate Christmas the Charles Dickens Way
The festivities never stop!
It’s no surprise that Charles Dickens and Christmastime go together as perfectly as milk and cookies. His novella A Christmas Carol has become one of literature’s greatest works and the holiday season’s most popular and classic stories. We all know the story of Scrooge and Tiny Tim, however what about Dickens himself?
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This work of his had nearly defined Christmas for the Victorians, so how did all that carry into today’s traditions? BBC spoke with a few knowledgeable folks as to how exactly Dickens brought magic to Christmas.
When A Christmas Carol first hit the shelves, all 6,000 copies sold out in six days, then six weeks later it was already being performed in theaters throughout London. Yes, it was that popular! In the 1840s the people of that time definitely held Christmas in high esteem. According to Dr. Cindy Sughrue, Dickens also saw it as a magical time to spend with loved ones:
"For Dickens, the entire season was an excuse to celebrate and come together.”
The food and festivities would go from Christmas Eve until the tradition of the Twelfth Night, which ended January 6th. So how did all these Victorians keep up with the food and drink? What did Charles himself do to entertain his countless guests? Pen Vogler, food historian and author of Dinner with Dickens gave us what we need for food and drink.
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What to serve for dinner:
- Mutton stuffed with oysters - this was one of Dickens' favourite dishes and his wife Catherine included a recipe for it in her cookbook What Shall We Have for Dinner which was published in 1851
- Pork - in Pip's family Christmas dinner in Great Expectations, they enjoyed pickled pork (essentially, a large ham served hot). Pork Pie was also a classic, country Christmas treat
- Toasted cheese - this was usually served with "watercresses" and was a huge favourite with Dickens for intimate winter meals with family and close friends
- Twelfth Cake - before Twelfth Night was squeezed out of the festive calendar, the big Christmas fruit cake was eaten then, not on Christmas day
How to make Dickens’ gin punch:
- Take 6 lemons - peel off the zest, squeeze out all the juice and throw the whole lot into a bowl
- Add 250g fine caster sugar
- Add 1 litre gin
- Mix thoroughly until the sugar dissolves
- Slowly add 1 pint milk, which will start to curdle and separate
- Refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Strain through a cheesecloth or coffee filter - it may need more than one straining to clear
- To serve: Ice (one or two cubes per glass) and freshly grated nutmeg
I’m not too sure how I feel about mutton, but the gin punch should definitely be a hit! Charles Dickens sure knew how to do it right. For more history on his love of celebration, check out BBC’s festive article!
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