Thursday, December 15, 2016

Scary Christmas - the Tradition of Yuletide Ghost Stories

Posted by: Dani Harper, AUTHOR



Our interest in ghosts, ghouls, and goblins doesn't end when we put the Halloween decorations away. With the shortening of daylight hours, something primal in us awakens. It’s not only a time for reindeer and Santa and eggnog and mistletoe – it’s time for the supernatural!

Don’t believe me? Check out the lyrics to a 1960s Christmas song: “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” … among the festivities mentioned are “scary ghost stories”!

To quote one of my friends, “Where the heck did THAT come from?”

Marley's Ghost visits Ebenezer Scrooge,
by Arthur Rackham, 1868, Public Domain
We’re all familiar with the classic “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, written in 1843. It tells of a bitter old man whose life is changed by the visitation of ghosts on Christmas Eve. But Dickens’ tale (just one of several seasonal ghost stories he penned) wasn’t at all unusual for the time. 

The Victorians were very fond of telling ghost stories around the fire during the holiday season  sensational and haunting tales of mystery, murder, and tragedy. Supernatural fiction in the form of periodicals, magazines, novels and “penny dreadfuls” sold well year-round but reached its marketing peak during the Yuletide season!

The popularity of spectral stories was no doubt helped along by the rise of spiritualism at the time, the belief that it was possible to communicate with the dead and receive messages from them. Christmas séances were very much in vogue!

Although dragging out the Ouija board for the holidays may sound strange to us, the Victorian preoccupation with ghosts is not that hard to understand if you consider the very short life span of the era (the average was somewhere between 37 and 41 years). So nearly everyone had someone “on the other side” that they wanted to talk to, especially during the holidays. Even Queen Victoria and Prince Albert met with a number of mediums, and actively participated in séances as early as 1848. 

A ghost in his winding sheet, 1901
illustration by J. Torrence, Public Domain
Ghost stories go hand in hand with Yuletide for another reason too. Since ancient times, the Winter Solstice (which falls around the 20 of December) has been associated with a thinning of the veil between worlds, as the death and rebirth of the sun occurs. Spirits are said to wander freely during this time. Later traditions invest Christmas Eve itself with a unique magic, allowing the departed a chance to settle their unfinished business with the living.

Whatever the original reasons might be, the telling of ghost stories at this festive time of the year is just plain fun, and in keeping with our all-too-human nature. We simply can’t help ourselves. 

Nineteenth-century humorist Jerome K. Jerome, in his book “Told After Supper”, addressed this mortal attribute: “Not only do the ghosts themselves always walk on Christmas Eve, but live people always sit and talk about them… Whenever five or six people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories. It is a genial festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood.”

Indeed we do.


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Check out Dani Harper's ghostly Christmas romance, THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT




Leave a comment below answering one of these questions:

What's the most FUN Christmas gift you've ever received OR what's the most fun gift you've given to someone else? 

GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED. 
Congrats to Carol L - she wins a paperback copy of The Holiday Spirit.
Prize will be delivered by Amazon. Open to US, UK, or Canada.

14 comments:

  1. gift basket of candy

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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    1. That brings up memories for me. Does anyone remember ribbon candy? Or candied peanuts? There were always an assortment of candies that came out for the holiday season that you didn't see any other time. Some of them were really pretty.

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  2. Not entering because I have this book already (and loved it!) but wanted to comment that I used to love scary Christmas ghost stories! Used to have a book of them!

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    1. Really glad you liked the book. :) I've been successful in finding a number of old collections of Christmas ghost stories on Kindle.

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  3. I'd LOVE to win a paperback copy to donate to my public library! OMG! This is terrible, but we gave our boss (who has since passed away) a set of those gold balls that hang from the back of trucks. He was so embarrassed that he blushed. He would never put them on his truck either... but he did hang them on his office wall. AND he talked about being given those until he died...

    lindalou (at) cfl (dot) rr (dot) com

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    1. ROFL! Even if he didn't dare put them on his truck, he obviously liked them. How cute!

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  4. The most fun gift I have ever given was gave to my brother. Hehe.. It was just a small present but we wrapped it then put it in a box and duct taped it and then put it in another box and duct taped it again! We did that about five times...it was so funny watching him try to open it!

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    1. Omigosh, we used to call that "Chinese Boxes". It's hard enough to get to your gift through wrapping paper, but duct tape is just plain evil, LOL!

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  5. One year my sisters & I received a pet bunny from Santa. Thanks for the giveaway.
    turtle6422(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Aww, that would be so sweet and cuddly! What a nice surprise! Our rabbit recently had babies and I'm astonished at how CUUUUUUTE they are!

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  6. I have to say my most fun gift as well as funniest was the 12" cardboard Christmastree my then 5 year ols son made & gave me on Christmas 1973. It was the most bent tree with pompoms glued all over and garland along with glitter. He was so proud of that tree (picture the letter S) but I do love it. I still have it and put it out during the holidays and he still cringesd when his daughter laughs hysterically when she sees it.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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    1. Sounds like a true Charlie Brown tree! Some of those early attempts at making gifts end up being the most cherished. I still have some of my kids' old ornaments too -- love them!

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  7. CONGRATULATIONS TO CAROL L - Your name was drawn as the winner of this post's giveaway. I have a ppb copy of The Holiday Spirit for you! Thanks to everyone who left a comment - I always appreciate them and read every one!

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  8. Thank you.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

    ReplyDelete

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