Don’t be a Scrooge: Christmas activities abound around area
Editor’s Note: This story is part of an occasional travel series by Mirror staff writer Cherie Hicks.
Maybe that first snow last week jolted you into the Christmas spirit after a warmer-than-usual autumn. But if it didn’t, there are plenty of festive activities upcoming in the region, including the celebration of classics from “It’s a Wonderful Life” to “A Christmas Carol.”
For the sixth year running, a direct descendant of Charles Dickens is bringing his one-man theatrical performance of “A Christmas Carol” to Central Pennsylvania on Dec. 5. It’s a bit of a drive for Altoona residents to the Country Cupboard in Lewisburg, but “it’s worth it,” said Coleen Wagner, assistant events coordinator. “It is so exciting to watch him.”
Gerald Charles Dickens has been performing his great-great-grandfather’s story since 1993, the 150th anniversary of the book. The Britain-based thespian said he hadn’t necessarily planned to devote his career to his relative’s legacy; it just evolved and is a lot of fun.
“It’s not a reading; it’s not a serious lecture,” Dickens said last week from his hotel in Nashville, a stop on his busy Christmas season tour that started Nov. 3 in Ohio and ends Dec. 18 in Minnesota. “It’s a one-man theatrical dramatization of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ I play all 26 characters, their voices. It tells the whole story … in Dickens’ own language from the beginning — Marley is dead — to the end — ‘God bless us everyone.'”
Having the Dickens name “never was a burden,” and he rarely thought of it growing up, he said. He was doing regular theater in Britain when someone suggested that he create a one-man play based on “A Christmas Carol.”
“The affection that people have for Charles Dickens is extraordinary,” he said. “To represent him and see that the affection is still there is very, very special.”
The descendant noted that the writer’s popularity rose in America in part because of his travels in 1842 through the United States, including on the Allegheny Portage Railroad and Mainline Canal system in Central Pennsylvania. A year later, Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol.”
Gerald Dickens will perform two shows in Lewisburg on Dec. 5 with tickets at $24 each; a buffet dinner package can be bought for an additional $15. Tickets are available at (570) 523-3211 or CountryCupboardInc.com.
If you can’t make the 100-mile drive to catch his show, Ebensburg’s “Dickens of a Christmas” is less than 25 miles away from Dec. 1 to 3. It is a family-oriented Christmas celebration downtown that also is based on “A Christmas Carol.” Participants dress in period costume, and activities include vendors and crafters hawking Christmas wares, wassailing in neighborhoods, ice carving, a live nativity, a Christmas parade and more. Details are at EbensburgPA.com.
Also a little closer is Belle-fonte’s similar celebration, Victorian Christmas from Dec. 8 to 10. A troupe playing Scrooge, Cratchit and other Dickens characters will stroll the town, singing and making appearances at different events, including high teas, arts and crafts shows and a gala. Horse-drawn carriage rides, breakfast with Santa and dozens of events are planned. (BellefonteVictorianChristmas.com.)
Pittsburgh lights up the nights with its 57th annual festival that kicks off Nov. 18 with local up-and-coming musicians playing on multiple stages, the opening of the German-inspired Holiday Market in Market Square and the lighting of the lights in downtown. Check out Light Up Night at DowntownPittsburgh.com.
Another quintessential holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” will be celebrated in several locales this year, including the annual festival in Indiana that celebrates native son and movie star Jimmy Stewart. A parade and lighting of a 30-foot Christmas tree is scheduled for downtown on Nov. 17, and festivities continue every weekend through Dec. 17 with Santa events, live reindeer, live music, a showing of Stewart’s movies, including “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and Christmas shopping downtown. (VisitIndianaCountyPa.org)
The Altoona Community Theatre is bringing the stage adaptation of “It’s a Wonderful Life” to the Mishler Theatre in Altoona from Nov. 16 to 19.
A number of communities and organizations have scheduled their own holiday celebrations, including parades, so you may not have to drive far to shake that Scrooge spirit. Check out these:
* Spirit of Christmas Parade in Downtown Altoona is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Nov. 30.
* Winterfest events in Hollidaysburg begin on
Nov. 19 with a parade in downtown. The Light-up Night follows on Nov. 24 with music, soup sampling competition and Santa Land topped off with fireworks. Small Business Saturday featuring holiday shopping in downtown is on Nov. 25. Get details from Hollidaysburg.org.
* The Cove Christmas Parade centered around Morrisons Cove Memorial Park in Martinsburg is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Nov. 18.
* Downtown Tyrone has several events on Dec. 1 including its downtown tree-lighting ceremony at
6 p.m. followed shortly by the Christmas parade.
* Holiday Lights on the Lake at Lakemont Park runs from 6 to 10 p.m. daily starting Nov. 17 through Jan. 7. Costs and more information is at LakemontParkFun.com.
* Heritage Holiday tours at Baker Mansion run from Dec. 6 to 23, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and 2 to 7 p.m. on Friday. The tree lighting is at 5 p.m. on Dec. 8. BlairHistory.org has information on admission.
* All aboard the Everett Railroad Santa Express Train on weekends starting Nov. 24. Check out the schedule and costs at EverettRailroad.com.
* The Altoona Symphony Orchestra presents its holiday concert at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 2 at the Mishler Theatre, and the Allegheny Chorale Christmas Concert is at
7 p.m. on Dec. 5 at First Presbyterian Church in Tyrone. Kenny Rogers closes out his career with a Christmas tour at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 8 at the Jaffa Shrine Center.
Check the Altoona Mirror Go section every Friday for more events.
Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.