Don’t let COVID-19 steal your holiday cheer! The Great Dickens Christmas Fair at Daly City’s Cow Palace is an annual monthlong tradition that will magically transport you to London during the age of Charles Dickens. Mingle with 19th-century Londonites dressed in traditional Victorian garb as they greet you with an authentic cockney accent. Stroll through hay-laden walkways filled with Dickens’ characters like Bob Crachit, Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim — all while feasting on Christmas pudding.
Due to the pandemic, organizers modified this year’s event so visitors can enjoy 19th century London from the pandemic-friendly comfort of their car (or “carriage,” according to the event’s brochure).
Nonetheless, this drive-in adventure is sure to ignite the Christmas spirit in everyone. Even Ebenezer Scrooge might crack a smile. When I entered the parking lot at the Cow Palace, I was greeted by a large “Welcome to Dickens’ London” banner and a plethora of English flags.
After a quick stop to place your food order — I highly recommend the fish and chips, Christmas pudding, and hot cocoa — I drove down a ramp and entered the Mad Sal’s Dock Yards.
It was at Mad Sal’s that I came face-to-face with a group of hard-working chimney-sweepers, covered with soot after a long day’s work.
They kindly remind you to turn your radio to 89.1 FM, to listen along to English holiday music while you take in the sights. One member of the chimney sweeper gang, Devin Gregory, expressed his excitement about the event.
“This is the best Christmas party,” Gregory said. “I’m here with my mates. This is what Christmas is supposed to be about.”
As my chariot propels forward to the later tableaux vivant, Scrooge shakes hands with Bob Crachit before proclaiming “I will double your wages.”
Later, Scrooge’s Third Spirit reminded me that my tomorrow is never defined by my past. Perhaps that’s what inspired organizers to make such bold changes to this year’s fair. Food line worker Kirsten Upchurch echoed this view. “The changed program has been a wonderful learning experience for us,” she said.
After delighting in a few more compelling scenes of London, my journey ended at the Convent Garden stage where a chimney sweeper playfully converted car horns into music. Fellow travelers devoured their hearty London suppers in an open-air environment.
So if you want to get into the holiday spirit, a visit to “Drive Through Dickens” might be just the event for you. It is certainly no “ba humbug” event. Tickets went quickly so save the date for a holiday tradition next year. This event is truly a COVID-friendly Christmas miracle.