A Dickens of a Christmas and Other Holiday Happenings Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” in response to the ever-widening social disparities in England in 1843. Observing that the spirit of the season had a way of bringing people together and fostering an altruistic attitude, it was Dickens’ appeal that everyone practice acceptance, generosity and good cheer not only during the holidays but every day. Like the reformed Ebenezer Scrooge in the final act, we should vow to honor the spirit of Christmas in our hearts and keep the cheer and generosity of the season with us all year long. This resolution will be easy to adopt if you set the tone in Kent County, where its Victorian-style architecture, Royal-Colonial history and mirthful locals make the perfect backdrop to your own Christmas carol story. From Thanksgiving weekend into the new year, festive celebrations throughout the county offer opportunities to honor traditions from the past, embrace whims of the present and rejoice in future prospects. Tuning Up ‘Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town The clash of cymbals, the boom of bass drums and the deep, tubby sound of tubas reverberate in the hearts of spectators as the Kent County Community Marching Band heralds the arrival of Santa in Chestertown. Favorite yuletide tunes, sparkling lights and costumed holiday characters get everyone in a merry mood at this annual lighting of the community Christmas tree event. Music and merriment continue the following day as marching bands don their colorful uniforms and step-in-time like toy soldiers through Chestertown’s annual Kent County Christmas Parade. Flanked by festive floats, antique cars and trucks, firefighters, holiday costumed characters, puppies from the Humane Society and Santa himself, this pageant is sure to bring out the child in you. Keep the muffs and mittens handy because days later Santa returns to Rock Hall. Join Mrs. Claus and the Kent County Community Marching Band as they welcome Old Saint Nick at the harbor where, before he climbs aboard the candy-apple red fire engine, he’ll be arriving not by sleigh but by boat! Follow the procession through the town where he’ll mix and mingle while the band plays jingles and the lighting of the Crab Basket Christmas Tree keeps the spirit bright. There’s proof in the figgy pudding that Kent County residents live joyful, accepting and generous lives when you consider the aforementioned Kent County Community Marching Band. With members ranging from elementary school students to city mayors and beyond, these volunteers band together as musicians, drum majors, color guards, and majorettes play and present the joy of music. If watching the lively presentations don’t make you smile, then prepare for a late-night visit from a few ghostly spirits to reset the Scrooge in you. Scrooge, Tiny Tim and Everything Dickens Ever wish you could go back in time? Perhaps, Victorian England? For three days in December, historic Chestertown virtually makes that happen with A Dickens of a Christmas, celebrating Dickens and his beloved novella. With many of the locals in period attire and appropriate characters, the festivities commence with an enchanting First Friday evening. Local shops host seasonal sips and nibbles while street performers, musicians and carolers keep you entertained along the way. Drop in for a hot cider at the Bordley History Center’s annual Wassail Party where it truly celebrates the season in historical fashion. Horse-drawn carriage rides, crafts for the kids, a “Victorian Christmas Magic Lantern Show” at the Garfield Center for the Arts, high tea, fireside storytelling and entertainment continues throughout the weekend. Wander through the Festival of Trees display and glimpse some of the finest-appointed homes in area during the Victorian Holiday Home Tour. Work off holiday sweets by participating in the Run Like the Dickens 5K and the Dickens Dash for the little ones. For more formal holiday entertainment, consider a show at one of the Kent County Theaters. For 2018, Chestertown’s Garfield Center for the Arts offers a spinoff inspired by Dickens’ classic with “Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol,” and in Rock Hall The Mainstay offers holiday music performances. In the Spirit of Giving To follow Dickens’ philosophy of charity and altruism, embrace the act of giving. With proceeds from many holiday events benefiting local nonprofits, you’re essentially giving to those in need, and shops throughout Kent County will help you give back. As shoppers get ready for Black Friday big-box sales, leisurely stroll the Chestertown Antiques Show & Sale to purchase a present from the past. In addition to purveyors, this three-day Thanksgiving weekend event includes professional appraisals, a bake sale, on-site café and a raffle. Continue your support of local businesses with Small Business Saturday in Chestertown. Get a Shopping Passport to receive discounts, special offers and increase your chances to win a holiday gift basket by collecting stamps from participating shops. Another great day to shop is the First Friday in December when the town is decked out in lights and lush greenery. Businesses stay open late offering a warm respite and free refreshments. Give a special, one-of-a-kind gift made by a skilled craftsperson from the Rock Hall Country Crafts Guild Fall Arts & Crafts Show. If it’s handmade or homemade, you’ll find it here. Likewise, the Annual Artisan Sale at The Artists’ Gallery promises handcrafted items from artists using a variety of unique methods and materials including metal, clay, wood, leather, glass and more. As the Bell Tolls Midnight On the final day of the year, dust off your top hat or floppy sleeping cap to emulate Ebenezer in the annual Rock Hall Hat Parade. Skip along declaring, “I’m as light as a feather, I’m as happy as an angel, I’m as merry as a schoolboy. I’m as giddy as a drunken man... A happy New Year to all the world!” Or, maybe Tiny Tim’s newsboy cap is more your style as you exclaim, “God bless us, every one!” “The more, the merrier” was the Victorian fashion for ladies’ hats, so fancy your bonnet with feathers, flowers and fanfare. Whatever your style, don’t be shy if you want to win a prize because, as Dickens said, “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” Expect plenty of cheer as the night rocks on at the NYE Block Party on Main. Enjoy live music, dancing and more at this free and family-friendly event. Or, eat, drink and be merry at the New Year’s Eve potluck at The Mainstay. Take a dish to share and enjoy a musical performance. With a holiday visit to Kent County, do away with “bah” and “humbug!” and plant the seeds of joyful sentiment in your heart. Then, nurture your growth throughout the year and the years to come.