It might be hard to believe, but Dickens Village has been an annual holiday tradition in Maplewood for 51 years.
Since 1961, countless awe-struck children and their equally enchanted parents have visited the quaint, miniature houses that artfully depict scenes from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
In their scale and beauty, and in the spirit of warmth and community they engender, the Maplewood Dickens Houses represent the small-town feel that continues to entice new generations of residents to call Maplewood home.
"Sometimes I think the Dickens Houses might be the real reason I moved here," said Michele Bessey, owner of Perch Home.
The houses officially open for viewing on Saturday, kicking off the holiday season in town. Santa will arrive by firetruck at 1 p.m., Township Committeeman Marlon Brownlee will read from A Christmas Carol at 4 p.m., and at 5 p.m., the Christmas tree will be lit.
To see the complete Dickens Village schedule, visit the website.
“My son was seven months old when we first visited the Maplewood Dickens Village in 1971,” said Ellen Davenport, Maplewood Village Alliance (MVA) member and former Mayor in a press release from the MVA. “The Dickens Village homes have been refurbished many times since then, and others are new. But each year, this tradition lights our hearts and allows us to celebrate our town, our families and our neighbors.”
Davenport oversees the event with Rosetta Weiser, who owns Village Wine Shop with husband, Alan. The duo took over the job in 2009 from the excellent care of the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce's Rene Conlon.
Since then, they have conducted maintenance, updated the website and introduced a special limited edition ornament fundraiser. This year's ornament, of the Grocer's Shop, is for sale at Village Wine Shop, No. 165 and during Dickens' events in Ricalton Sqaure. (See photo attached).
Dickens Village began with half a dozen homes erected in Ricalton Square, according to the MVA. Over the years, it has grown to nine homes and shops, including the Grocer’s Shop, Scrooge’s House, Scrooge and Marley Counting House and the home of Timothy Cratchit.
Dickens Christmas Fairs and Villages have long been a holiday tradition in the UK and the US, and Maplewood's is among the oldest, according to the MVA. In addition, this year is the 200th anniversary of Dickens' birth, (For more on that, visit the website.)
“As we celebrate this holiday, and reflect on others we’ve enjoyed in Maplewood with friends and family, we celebrate too our strength as a community and our ability to help one another in times of hardship," said Mayor Vic DeLuca. "The recent storm was difficult for us as a community and particularly hard on some residents. The Village became an anchor, a place to recharge ourselves and our phones and to grab a warm meal or meet friends."
“Maplewood Village is a unique place, a small wonder as we say," said MVA President John James. "Our scale reminds us that it is our neighbors and families that count most and the quality of our shops and public spaces are an invitation to all to celebrate what we who live here so cherish. Over the last half century, Dickens Village has become a tradition that reminds us of our past but also of the values of compassion and friendship that are at the core of the story Dickens Villages tells and also of Maplewood.”