New Castle gets into the Spirit of Christmas

December 14, 2014 Posted by admin

Ebenezer Scrooge glared at his nephew Fred, who’d cheerily greeted his uncle on this chilly holiday morning.

“Bah, humbug,” the older man barked in a cold, raspy voice. A man who celebrates Christmas, he said, “should be boiled in his own pudding and buried with a stake through his heart.”

Fred fruitlessly tried to get his flinty relative in a festive mood. “Though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, it has done me good,” Fred told his uncle. “It will do you good.”

Scrooge began slowly walking away. “Bah,” he growled.

Old New Castle’s Spirit of Christmas Saturday was highlighted by performances of a shortened version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

So began a street-theater production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on Saturday, a centerpiece of the first-ever Spirit of Christmas event in old New Castle – a celebration 1 1/2 years in the making.

“It is good for the community and fun,” said Jim Meek, a city resident who played Scrooge. “Brings people into town. We wish to share the town with other people.”

“And the spirit of Christmas,” added David “Fred” Price, a Newark resident who works at the New Castle Courthouse Museum.

The mostly free, day-long celebration, sponsored by the New Castle Presbyterian Church and the New Castle Visitors Bureau, was an event for all ages. Holiday-themed music filled the air inside and out, performed by musicians ranging from Cab Calloway School of the Arts students to the Brandywine Harp Quartet, whose lovely rendition of Carol of the Bells rang out in the church’s 1707 Meeting House.

Select private homes, decorated for the holidays, were open to visitors who were filling New Castle’s streets – and trying to find parking spaces – as early as 10 a.m. Every other adult was clutching a cup of coffee or hot chocolate to ward off the morning chill, leavened slightly by bright sunshine, as they wandered between events and local merchants and restaurants. Volunteers in period dress mixed with visitors to lend the day an additional nostalgic touch.

The turnout was a pleasant surprise for the organizers.

“Way above our expectations,” said an obviously pleased Florence Davis, president of the New Castle Historical Society’s Board of Directors. Davis was clad in a full-skirted Victorian dress as she hosted an English Tea Seating, featuring scones and small sandwiches, at the refurbished Arsenal. “There were about 75 to 100 people following the street theater. The [Friday night] ball was sold out three weeks ago, and this tea has been sold out for a couple of weeks.”

Fezziwig’s Ball, she said, “was exquisite. All the ladies, swirling skirts, live music.”

Spirit of Christmas, an all-volunteer affair, had a twofold inspiration, Davis said. The society celebrated its 80th anniversary this year. “And in addition to that, the society is moving its business office and collection to this building,” she said. “So it was an opportunity to celebrate.”

After settling on the Victorian/Dickens theme so timelessly evoked in A Christmas Carol, organizers narrowed their focus to 1850s-1860s London “for a very practical reason,” Davis said. “We knew more people who had [that] costuming than any other group,” she said.

What was New Castle like at that time? “In 1860, the population was 1,860,” she said. “The sheriff lived across the Green. The Presbyterian church was a Gothic church. We had just gotten gas lights –1857. The Civil War was about to break out.”

And when well-to-do folks here dressed up to go out, they wore the top hats and the large hoop skirts Saturday’s reenactors sported, Davis said.

Visitors, particularly those following the Dickens players down the street, seemed to thoroughly enjoy the day. “I think it was very well done,” said Carolyn Carter of Newark. “Very well done. They have something for everybody.

“And I got to talk to the Spirit of Christmas, and I told him it’s not my time,” Davis said, referring to the mysterious, veiled individual draped in black playing the Phantom – the mute “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come” –who followed Saturday’s Scrooge down the block, pointing accusingly at the miserly old man and then, hauntingly, to future possibilities.

“And he gave me the thumbs-up,” Davis said, smiling. “It means I have more time – he’s not gonna take me.”

Contact William H. McMichael at (302) 324-2812 or bmcmichael@delawareonline.com. On Twitter: @billmcmichael

Article source: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/2014/12/13/new-castle-gets-spirit-christmas/20365683/

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