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Party in Marion like it’s 1817

A Grant County event meets the Ghost of Christmas Past

By Hope Bolinger | Echo

The sign out front flaunts garlands and bows for the holiday season. (Photograph provided by Hostess House)

The sign out front flaunts garlands and bows for the holiday season. (Photograph provided by Hostess House)

Not too often will the Ghost of Christmas Past and Christmas Present meet in the same place.

On Dec. 8, for the third year in a row, the 105-year-old Hostess House will host Dining with Dickens. The event will take visitors back to the Victorian Era — 1812–1870 (for this particular event) — to reminisce upon “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens. Although, according to Ginnie Lake, board member of event planning, the house was built years after Dickens’ time, they decorated the three story building with the author’s works in mind.

“While the House would have little in common with the home of the Cratchits’, it would be similar to Gad’s Hill, Dickens’ home,” Lake said.

Along with the ability to admire the period decorations of lanterns and candles (along with the beautiful woodwork of the old house), guests have the opportunity to partake in home cooked food that Dickens and some of his characters would have enjoyed. Lake made sure to research the writings of Charles Dickens and his daughter, Mary, and compiled the described holiday dinners into a carte du jour.

According to Lake, the menu will include Christmas salad, trifle, roast beef with yorkshire pudding, among many other items.

In addition to providing Dining with Dickens participants with a hearty meal, the food may also carry a symbolic importance in Dickens’ works.

Junior Steven Vermillion said, “As a champion of the poor and destitute, (Dickens) often uses food as a physical indicator abundance (or a lack of food as a representation of destitution). Being fond of food and drink himself, he also frequently uses food and drink (particularly alcohol) to engender love, familial bonds, charity, community, and/or happiness in the characters that partake in the food. He is also not unknown to use food imagery in his texts.” 

A Christmas tree spruces the 105-year-old Hostess House. (Photograph provided by Hostess House)

A Christmas tree spruces the 105-year-old Hostess House. (Photograph provided by Hostess House)

The event plans to also provide period music by the Madrigal Singers, directed by LeRoy Ilmer. Ilmer, who conducted at the event last year, selected a group from the Marion Lyric Club, in which he is a member, to perform.

Continuing the tradition this year, he chose five singers: sopranos Debbie Shepherd and Cathy Bomholt, alto Jane Bowell, tenor Dan Bowell and bass Reverend Jeff Jahn.

“Since the musicians are all trained vocalists, it does not take a lot of rehearsals preparing the program.” Ilmer said. “I select the music making sure each carol would have been performed during the lifetime of the famous writer, Charles Dickens.”

Although the group may not practice much, they still perform beautifully, according to an attendee from last year, Joyce Pappas. She enjoyed the period music and “talented” musicians that she would go again if given the opportunity.
When the music and dinner concludes, radio show host Ed Breen will read an excerpt of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and provide commentary about his research on Dickens’ works. Although Breen provided a similar presentation last year, he has new research to offer the guests who attend the event.

Those interested in stepping back in time to an era full of transitions and new identities, along with a setting stuffed full of holiday spirit, can reserve a spot for the Dec. 8 event at Hostess House at 723 W 4th St, Marion, Indiana. Tickets cost $30, and the event starts at 6:00 p.m. (dinner at 6:30) and ends at 9:00 p.m.

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