We all know that Halloween is a favorite time of year for people to discuss things that go bump in the night. But, as the days grow short and the end of the year nears, it may come as a surprise to learn that there is another beloved holiday that has traditionally carried a practice for sharing tales of specters and spirits – Christmas.
That’s right, for generations the holiday season that inspires peace, cheerful caroling, and spreading joy on earth has also inspired a much creepier tradition of people sharing their accounts and fictions of the paranormal. In fact, one of the most famous Christmas stories ever put to paper happens to be a ghost story.
A Long-Standing Pastime
In December of 1843, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was printed and published. Within its pages, Dickens writes of Ebenezer Scrooge – a miserly old man who, on Christmas Eve, is visited by three spirits (the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future) to teach him the lesson of being kind, showing generosity, and caring for those around him.
But long before Charles Dickens ever put pen to paper; families across the globe have united during the wintery holiday season and, with a need for entertainment, joined in the pastime of telling ghost stories.
Death and New Beginnings
When we reflect on the time of year it really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Winter, from a spiritual perspective, is about death and rebirth, after all. It’s the time of year that teaches and reminds us that everything in life, good or bad, has an ending. It also teaches us that, though endings can be painful and full of heartbreak, they can also be peaceful and full of beauty.
And as the holidays bring us closer together with our loved ones, we naturally tend to think of people who are no longer with us and things that have (or should) come to an end in our lives – be they relationships, old habits, jobs, or anything in between.
Ghosts of our Pasts
These ghosts of our past come back to “haunt us” this time of year as a reminder of how life has changed, how we’ve changed, and even how we need to change for the future. And when you consider all of this it starts to make a lot of sense that families may share a ghost story or two this time of year – especially when you remember that this tradition started well before the days of having television and internet for entertainment.
Ties to Paganism and Yule
Christmas was also originally connected to (and is still celebrated near) the Winter Solstice or Yule – the darkest day of the year. Yule, falling on December 21 and December 22, was believed to be a time when spirits could more freely roam the realm of the living.
Mixing these beliefs with the chilling temperatures and overall darkness that ensues during the winter season seems to have created the perfect recipe for ghost stories being shared around the fireplace. And I, for one, would love to see this tradition of old make a come back in our modern times.
Reignite a Tradition
So, this year, while you’re gathered with your loved ones or sitting at home enjoying a cup of eggnog or spiced cider try reading a ghost story or even telling of your own spooky experiences and encounters with things that go bump in the night.
Happy Holidays from all of us here at APS!