by Jeanne Craig | November 24, 2018

Amelia Island Christmas

Be transported to Victorian-era London this holiday season at Amelia Island’s fourth annual weekend celebration, Dickens on Centre


When Charles Dickens penned A Christmas Carol, his wife was expecting their fifth child. Because the couple was struggling to make ends meet, he began the novella simply to provide for his family. And yet his biographers tell us that Dickens quickly found himself swept up in the story and the idea that Christmas should have little to do Scrooge’s gold; rather, the focus of the holiday should always be on the celebration of loved ones and the joys of spending time with family. A Christmas Carol was released in 1843. It was an immediate success, and it made a permanent mark on how the holiday would be experienced for years to come.

More than a century later, there are Dickens-inspired celebrations the world over, including here in Florida, on Amelia Island. Dickens on Centre is one of the most charming interpretations of an old-fashioned English Christmas to be found on this side of the Atlantic.

Now in its fourth year, the festival is scheduled for December 7 through December 9. For the event, which is free to the public, historic downtown Fernandina Beach is transformed to resemble London in the 1840s. The Victorian-era buildings are decorated for the holiday, white lights illuminate the streets, the smell of roasted chestnuts is in the air and sidewalks are filled with men and women in period costume. Look for top hats and hoop skirts, and keep an eye out for Tiny Tim, who might tip his cap when passing by, as well as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

The festival is family-friendly, as the event features entertainment for everyone in your clan. For music lovers, there are carolers in the streets and performances by local bands and choirs. Together, grandparents and grandchildren can listen to a reading of “The Night Before Christmas” and watch a one-man performance of A Christmas Carol. Those traveling with young children will find plenty to do in the Kid Zone, where the little ones can meet  St. Nick, write letters that will be sent straight to the North Pole, play cornhole and ornament toss and more. Or, if you’re visiting without the kids, get tickets to the new adult-focused ghostly event “Dickens After Dark,” complete with the sounds of dragging chains and hot toddies to sip.

If you’re not up for scheduled performances and tours, simply stroll down charming Centre Street for holiday shopping with local vendors or take a turn down Artist Alley. Time spent at Dickens on Centre is an opportunity to unwind, take a step back in time and give yourself the space to remember what matters most at the holidays.

Photography by Deremer Studios