Celebrating a Golden Afternoon 150 Years Ago Today

The Isis from Godstow Lock

Amid all the fireworks, flag-waving, and hot dog eating, another anniversary celebration is taking place today. 150 years ago this very afternoon, Lewis Carroll first extemporized the story of Alice’s adventures to three little girls in a rowing boat. Could we argue this event had cultural implications on a par with the Declaration of Independence itself? I think we could.

In celebration of the milestone, Oxford’s annual Alice’s Day, coordinated by the Oxford Story Museum, will be bigger than ever before and for the first time will include a raucous caucus race in Christ Church Meadow. Tish Francis, co-director of the museum, spoke about the event in Oxford Mail: “It is going to be wonderful, holding the race on a field overlooked by the windows of Christ Church, where Alice Liddell would have sat and looked out. We have got singers, dancers, circus performers. In the words of the Dodo, the best way to explain it is just to do it.” More on Alice’s Day and the Caucus Race can be read in C. M. Rubin’s article for the Huffington Post: Alice – – Join in the Race!

Ted Gioia, author and blogger, has commemorated the occasion in the post How Alice Got Into Wonderland in which he suggests that Carroll’s story may never have been meant just for children and asks “did a little-known Anglican
minister play a bigger role than the real-life Alice in the creation of this classic work?”

While Fourth of July celebrations may be taking center stage here in America, we hope that lovers of the Alice books will find their own ways to mark the day. (If you happen to be in Vallejo, California you could tip your hat to the Hatter as he drives by in their Fourth of July parade.) Here are some suggestions:

  • Take any opportunity to quote Alice. For example, if asked whether you like the potato salad, you could answer: “Thank you, it’s a very interesting dance to watch and I do so like that curious song about the whiting!”
  • Greet all newcomers to your local fireworks display with a languid “Who are you?” Refuse to be satisfied with their answer, whatever it is.
  • If you should happen to fall asleep at your family reunion, upon waking tell everybody all about your curious dream in which you chased a rabbit down a rabbit-hole, grew, shrunk, went for a swim, had a drink, kicked a lizard, et cetera, and ending up signing the Declaration of Independence.

If you have any more ideas, or news of other celebrations that are taking place, please tell us about them in the comments below.

Here’s to that golden afternoon!

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