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Dickens Festival at Braintree's All Souls Church renews a local tradition

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  November 12, 2011 01:23 PM

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Father Christmas stands with a festival attendee during a previous celebration.

More than 16 years ago, Braintree resident Roger Hatch had an idea. Rather than just reading Charles Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol" to his nieces and nephews, why not make the story come to life?

It was the start of a festival that has occurred annually ever since, and this year, All Souls Church in Braintree will present its 17th Annual Dickens Festival for the community this Saturday.

Actors dress up as Christmas Carol characters, while volunteers in period costume serve food and drinks. Carolers stroll the church’s inner sanctuary and visitors shop the dozens of craft vendors set up in the space.

It’s a subtle addition to a Christmas fare not seen often elsewhere in the community. A Victorian Father Christmas greets kids with a smile and a nod, and Scrooge scowls as people walk past.

“It’s a really fun event. We look forward to it, and we’ve been doing it ever year for 17 years,” said Mary Mitchell, a Church Board member who helps organize the event. “It’s great because people outside our church community come in for it. They look for it. That’s the best time to come into the church, and it’s a good experience. Our carolers sing three times in the afternoon. It seems very traditional. I’m sure it’s rather old-fashioned, but that’s what we do.”

Typically the event draws approximately 500 people, many of whom come in to hear the caroling, purchase some crafts, and eat the infamous roast turkey dinner sandwich -- a turkey sandwich with stuffing, cranberry sauce, and all the thanksgiving fixings.

The pews are transformed into craft tables, homemade goods are sold in one large table in the center of the room, and 50/50 raffles are done with themed baskets.

The vendors themselves are varied. Rick’s Christmas Attic Treasures is a compilation of yard sale acquired items.

“Rick Anderson, a longtime member of the church, methodically examines each item,
pricing and arranging the high-end yard sale items, white elephant gifts, furniture
and holiday decorations,” organizers said in a release.

Anderson, too, is dressed to match the Victorian theme, and his table has been a popular spot since 2004.

Additionally, Pies by Guys, created by local artist Michael Domina, makes numerous pies two weeks before the festival, and sell out every season. Who pies go for $12, with a slice going for $2.

“Advance requests for pies are already coming in to the church office,” organizers said.

Overall it’s a day the church, and the community itself, have come to know and remember.

“I think we look forward to sharing our hospitality with the community, and this feels like we welcome our best and want them to have a good time when they’re with us. That’s what its all about,” Mitchell said.

The festival will be held at All Souls Church at 196 Elm Street in Braintree on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Parking is available in the lot behind the church on Charles Street. The building is handicap-accessible.

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