Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Scary Ghost Stories at Christmastime

I've always been fascinated with our tendency to be drawn to dark subject matters during the holidays. Think about our most cherished Christmas moviesthe films watched over and over and imitated countless timesand the dark themes they entail:

A Sinister Old Man Who Sees Ghosts
A Christmas Carol

A Sinister Old Man Who Provokes Suicide Attempts
It's a Wonderful Life

A Sinister Old Monster Who Steals Christmas
How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Why do we frequently veer toward the scary when it comes to our most cherished holiday?

Have you ever heard the Andy Williams song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," which includes the line “There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago”? Or read Susan Hill's The Woman in Black, which starts with the telling of ghost stories on Christmas Eve?

Victorians in England made a tradition out of sitting around the fire and spinning ghost tales on December 24. In fact, the winter solstice, the lengthiest night of the year, has long been considered one of the best times for paranormal activity. The veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is said to be thinnest when the old sun dies and the new sun waits to be born. Such a belief probably led to the spreading of spine-tingling stories during December's dimmest hours.

So, if you're wondering why you're craving a glimpse of Marley's ghost when winter awakens after midnight tonight, or if Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas wins out over The Santa Clause in your house, keep in mind you're just following a long-standing December tradition of dark, supernatural tales. 

Happy winter!


Ara Burklund said...

So true about the scary stuff! Never really thought about that before. Interesting...

David Milne said...

Today being the winter solstice it is nice to tell tales of ghosst. They recall the gloom and horror of the past but remind us that we can survive the story and see hope in the future

Cat Winters said...

There's definitely a theme of rejuvenation running through these darker Christmas classics. The characters reach their most horrific moments and then transform into happier, more satisfied beings--just like we all hope for our lives every New Year.

Cat Winters said...

Just like we all hope to accomplish in our own lives, that is.

Kat Bender said...

Love this post! I'd never heard about the historical connection with the Victorian era before, but it makes so much sense. I was just thinking I need to learn more about how the holidays were celebrated during that period. Thank you for sharing your research! :)

Cat Winters said...

You're welcome, Kat! I'm glad you enjoyed my historical research as much as I did. I always wondered why Andy Williams was singing about "scary ghost stories" at Christmastime.