Christmas means food, drink and dickens, so the Charles Dickens Museum has decked the halls and put out the (artificial) food in a celebration of a Dickensian Christmas.
Whether feasting for the rich or scraping by for the poor, food was a massive cost for the household, far more than today, when a typical family would spend around a third of their income on the cost of buying food.
So it’s no surprise really that food plays such an important role in Charles Dickens novels, and as someone born poor, got poorer, and then rich — his views on the struggles to eat and the joys from eating were unusually wide ranging.
Dickens wrote about food in his stories to insist that rich and poor alike had the right to share and enjoy food and drink; and that children deserved the security of proper meals provided by a kind and loving person.
The Charles Dickens Museum is either a holy relic of the great man, or a good representation of an upper middle-class Victorian home, depending on your interest in the man himself, and has been decorated as for a typical Victorian Christmas.
Of course, no decent Victorian would dare put up the Christmas decorations so early, for they were more usually put up on Christmas Eve, and taken down on Twelfth Night, which itself was a far more bacchanalian festival than it is today.
I’d personally prefer a lot less Xmas and a lot more 12th Night.
Apart from the decoration, what the museum has done this year is focus on the feasting, and dug out a lot of letters that Dickens wrote about his Christmas meals.
It seems that he rarely bought a turkey for himself, being the recipient of many gifts of such fowls each year, and seemed to send thank you notes back only when the bird was fished off, as an indication of how large they were.
This year marks the 175th anniversary of the publication of A Christmas Carol, a book that has largely cemented in the public imagination what the correct sort of Christmas should entail, minus the ghosts of course.
Your correspondent’s family had a copy of the book when I was younger, and it was a visual feast for the illustrations, so in hunting around for the book today was surprised to learn that it was produced by the men who were to go on to create Spitting Image.
The book cemented his reputation, and Dinner with the Dickens was a popular invitation, with Dickens often used elements of his dinner parties in his other novels.