To step foot into his garden is to be in the midst of as many lines of poetry as there are leaves of oak, with quotes by his favorites including William Blake, Bob Dylan and, of course, Charles Dickens carved into wood and stone all around.
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” — a quote from Dickens’ 1843 novella — is carved into stone, the words divided between four slabs that are placed due north, west, south and east in a corner of Rickie Birran’s garden.
And the words of A Christmas Carol are certainly engraved into Birran’s mind after performing them more than 400 times, yet his mind is far from the only space these words occupy in Birran’s life. Birran shares his passion for Dickens’ classic ghost story each year at Eugene’s Holiday Market, where he has been delivering his recitation since 2010. “I try to give each performance something different,” Birran says. He explains that the fact that he can perform each recitation differently is a tribute to Dickens’ magical way of weaving words together. “It’s poetry,” he says.
Birran says his purpose in giving the recitation aligns with the purpose of all of his recitations, “to enrich, encourage, enlighten and entertain.” His set up for A Christmas Carol features sculptures of the ghosts in the story, made by Eugene artist Dan Chen, and an ornate gold frame which seems to amplify the hollow scoffs Birran delivers as the story’s protagonist, the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge.
Despite having delivered his recitation of A Christmas Carol 434 times, Birran is far from a snob, as renditions of the story go. “The Mister Magoo is my favorite,” he grins. He and his wife, Bethany Brown, who were married in the garden in 2017, agree that the Magoo variation is his favorite because it “is just silly” and stays true to Dickens’ story. “It’s really a story of transformation,” Birran says, “of what it means to be human.” And of “what it means not to be human,” Brown muses.
Birran’s A Christmas Carol will be performed at noon and 2 pm each day of Holiday Market, located at Lane Events Center, 796 W. 13th Ave. Holiday Market runs 10 am to 6 pm on weekends from Saturday, Nov. 20, through Friday, Dec. 24. For more information visit HolidayMarket.org.