Yo ho, lassies and lads! I surely hope you enjoy A Christmas Carol, especially the part where my wife and I throw a great festive party. To help you have a fine time, I’ve written a list of things that appear in the play that might be unfamiliar to you, seeing as you live in America in the year 2015.
Waistcoat: You might call this a vest, but in England we say waistcoat. It’s a sleeveless, front-buttoned garment that men often wear when they’re dressing up. I like to eat a lot of pudding so sometimes I have a hard time buttoning mine.
Milliner’s Shop: A store that sells hats. In 19th century England, both men and women wore hats much more often than they do today. In the play, Martha Cratchit works at a milliner’s shop.
Boot Blacking Factory: Boot blacking is what you now call shoe polish. In my day, black was the only color it was made in. In the play, Peter Cratchit gets a job at a boot blacking factory. In real life, the author Charles Dickens got a job pasting labels onto jars at a boot blacking factory when he was just 12 years old. He worked 12 hours per day, six days per week, wishing the whole time that he could go to school instead.
Coach: A large carriage pulled by horses, used before the invention of cars. In the play, when Fan comes to Boy Scrooge’s school to bring him home for the holidays, her father sends her in a rented coach.
Farthing/Shilling/Bob/Pound/Crown: Throughout the play you’ll hear people using these words when they talk about money. In 19th century England, people didn’t use dollars, quarters and dimes. Instead, they used a different money system. The smallest coin was a farthing. Four farthings made a penny. Twelve pennies (or 12 pence) made a shilling, sometimes called a bob. Five shillings made a crown. Four crowns made a pound. Because I run a business, money is important to me—but not as important as making merry!
The Sir Roger: An English country dance, and one that my wife adores. She would dance it all year long if she could, but we must save it for our annual Christmas party. The dance is named after a character, Sir Roger de Coverley, who appeared in a magazine called The Spectator, published by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele. You’ll see us do the Sir Roger during the show: it’s the dance with two rows of dancers facing each other. Hey ho, it’s a grand old time.