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.
Check out Dani Harper's ghostly Christmas romance, THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT
Get your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/HOLIDAY-SPIRIT-wants-Christmas-ghost-ebook/dp/B013Z0F31M
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