Victorian Christmas a holiday wonderland

Step into the holiday wonderland of the 32nd Annual Bellefonte Victorian Christmas, but watch out for some of its characters.

They may be stepping around you.

Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Cratchet and the Fezziwigs will return to Bellefonte in all their festive sartorial splendor to stroll around and greet visitors during the Dec. 12-15 celebration.

They’re among the many attractions scheduled for the traditional holiday extravaganza organized by the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association. Carolers, arts and crafts vendors, concerts, horse-drawn carriage rides, gingerbread houses, visits with Santa and more await to put even the biggest Scrooge in a holiday mood.

“We take you back into the past,” festival Chairwoman Sally Houser said.

It all starts with the Fourth Annual Fundraising Gaslight Gala at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 12 at the American Philatelic Society Building.

Provided by Hoag’s Catering, the gourmet dinner will feature walnut basil chicken and filet mignon. Live music, caroling, holiday skits, parlour games and dancing also will be part of the evening.

Tickets are $75 for individuals and $600 for a table of eight. No reservations will be accepted after Dec. 7.

Also on Dec. 12, the Festival of the Trees at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology, part of Victorian Christmas, begins. The festival runs 4-9 p.m. the first two days, then 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 14 and noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 15.

Victorian Christmas’ official opening on Dec. 13 will bring the Nittany Knights, the Bellefonte Elementary School choir, the Bellefonte Middle School Women’s Chorale and the St. John’s Elementary School Choir to the Bellefonte Elementary School.

Before the 6:30 concert, Dickens will extend his greetings at the door. Afterward, hot chocolate and cookies will be served outside the auditorium.

During the weekend celebration, visitors shopping for gifts for friends and family — or perhaps just for themselves — will have their choice of four arts and crafts show sites. More than 75 vendors will set up shop at the Bellefonte YMCA, Bellefonte Elementary School, Bellefonte Middle School and on East High Street near the Centre County Courthouse.

Other favorite events return for another year. The Homes Tour, 2-7 p.m. Dec. 14, features seven decorated, historic homes, open for visits in any order, and two other stops. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children younger than 12.

Learn more about the town’s historic architecture on a guided walking tour of the downtown and nearby neighborhoods. Tours leave the Centre County Courthouse at 2 p.m. Dec. 14 and 15, and include stories and explanations of styles and periods.

Once again, the Fezziwigs will throw their Christmas Party and Family Buffet at 6 p.m. Dec. 14 at American Philatelic Society Building. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for students and children.

Also back this year are Victorian high teas at 1 and 3 p.m. Dec. 14 and 15 at the Reynolds Mansion at 101 W. Linn St., and a children’s Victorian tea party at 1 and 3 p.m. Dec. 14 and 2 p.m. Dec. 15., all at the Bellefonte Art Museum at 133 N. Allegheny St.

High tea tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for youth.

Victorian costumes are encouraged but not required. The children’s parties cost $10 per child.

Because both have limited space, reservations are recommended. Call 355-1178 or 355-4737 for the high tea and 355-9606 for the children’s tea.

But aside from those and a few other high-profile events, Houser said, most of Victorian Christmas’ charm comes free — including concerts throughout the festival at Trinity United Methodist Church.

Free shuttles run from parking at Bellefonte Area High School to the downtown and Festival of the Trees.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or what economic background you’re from,” Houser said. “There’s something for everyone.”