Charles Dickens was my great-great-grandfather. His first dream was to become an actor. When he began his public readings, "A Christmas Carol" was three hours long. He shortened it somewhat and always included it on public reading tours. On his last tour to America in the late 1860's, Charles Dickens performed "A Christmas Carol" in Washington, D.C. by gaslight.

Our cousin Cedric tells how he heard his grandfather, Sir Henry Fielding Dickens read "A Christmas Carol" to a large Dickens family gathering. He recalls tears rolling down his grandfather's face at the part where Tiny Tim might die and how he almost lost his false teeth as Scrooge awoke on Christmas morning!

Cedric had authored several books and my parents had just retired from publishing in the early 1990's. As the 150th anniversary of "A Christmas Carol's" publication approached, Mum, Dad, and Cedric decided to create the framework of an evening built around "A Christmas Carol." The idea was to begin with a Dickensian Grace, enjoy a first course, then the first Stave of the Carol. A five-course Christmas Feast made a perfect match to the five Staves. A chapter would be added on Victorian party games, because Charles Dickens love games, even magic.

Interviewers often ask if I feel connected to Charles Dickens when performing. Absolutely! I adore Mrs. Fezziwig's 'vast substantial smile' as she listens to the fiddler 'tuning up like 50 stomach aches' at the Fezziwig Christmas Ball. And I love Scrooge! Developing voices for 26 characters led me deeply into the story of "A Christmas Carol."

1996 brought me to the States on a first Holiday Performance Tour. In the nine years since, I have experienced countless heartwarming moments during American Holiday Tours; Americans are ecstatically passionate about "A Christmas Carol." I have performed at theatres, historic hotels, Dickens Festivals, library systems, and benefit fund raisers.

Sometimes I arrive by carriage. At some feasts, smoking bishop (a traditional holiday spiced beverage) is served just as Scrooge served Bob Cratchit. Often a perky lad dressed as Tiny Tim holds open the door saying "appy 'oliday!" At a corporate holiday party, I led 2000 spirited guests in a Dickens table game called La-di-Da. Charles Dickens, who played games such as "Blindman's Buff" and "Yes and No" just as Scrooge's nephew, would have been proud.

Given what "A Christmas Carol" meant to Charles Dickens, what it means to my family, and to me, I am honoured to be performing it throughout the United States for the American people.