Why are Ghost Stories associated with Christmas?
By Lillee Allee
This is a question that many people have asked, and the answer goes farther than Charles Dickens, though his may arguably be the best ghost story for Christmas of all. In the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Edward Pola and George Wyle, and recorded by Andy Williams in 1963:
“ . . . There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of
Christmases long, long ago…”
What would families do today without the help of recorded music, the Christmas log on a cable channel, or the plethora of great Christmas specials and shows for the season. How would you entertain guests? Looking at the fire in the fireplace is nice, but this was not a special event back then but simply a way to keep the family from freezing. There are three theories as to how ghost stories ended up as a part of the Christmas tradition: the pagan theory, the Dickens theory, and the Victorian theory.
The pagan theory involves pre-Christian traditions and beliefs. Yule was the darkest night of the year, and oral stories were shared. In Northern Europe, it was called the dark half of the year, and other than taking care of the animals, farming was at a standstill. It was time to explain why it was so cold and the sun disappeared so early. With the dark, may have come the stories of ghosts and ghouls as this was the dead season in so many ways. Scholars cannot make a definite connection, so this remains a theory at best.
The Dickens theory is that Charles Dickens first created the Christmas Ghost Story, and while this is the popular opinion, it is not accurate. He remains, however, the best known and most loved Christmas ghost story. Even towns across America commemorate Dicken’s story with actors on the streets.
Victorians loved their “penny dreadfuls,” their new technologies and became interested in death and communication with those who have passed. While this is a romantic idea, it is not going far enough into the history.
In the end, it may be a combination from all of the above and more. Researchers have found that Christmas scary stories appeared as early as the 1500s by Christopher Marlowe, from Shakespeare in the 1600s and even other writers such as H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Alan Poe, Joseph Glanvilll and Washington Irving. At present, Christmas ghost stories can be traced back definitively to the 16th century, but many wonder if such stories appeared earlier than that.
Christmas Ghost Stories: The Ghost of Christmas Past goes back farther than you might realize. Retrieved October 11,2015 from http://www.gothichorrorstories.com/classic-gothic-ghost-stories/christmas-ghost-stories-the-ghost-of-christmas-past-goes-further-back-than-you-might-realize-2/
Christmas Ghost Stories. Retrieved October 11, 2015 from http://www.thisishorror.co.uk/features/christmas-ghost-stories/
Christmas Spirits Part I: The Origin of Ghost Stories at Christmas. Retrieved October 11, 2015 from http://www.hypnogoria.com/html/ghoststoriesforchristmas.html
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