We have reached day three of Tis the Season and today I will be tying Christmastime with academia.
I had the pleasure of spending the past semester in a Victorian Lit and Culture class. When you think about it, the Victorians are really the ones responsible for Christmas as we know it today. They began traditions like singing carols and waiting for Saint Nicholas. Prince Albert is responsible for bringing the practice of bringing evergreen trees into homes, a tradition he carried over from Germany when he married Queen Victoria. One tradition, however, did not continue into the twenty-first century: Christmas Eve ghost stories.
Why ghost stories on Christmas? According to a KnowledgeNuts article, they are a remnant from pre-Christmas pagan practices. You see, the Christmas was strategically placed on December 25 because various festivals, rites, and rituals were already associated with the Winter solstice. Due to these practices, “the solstice was also considered the most haunted day of the year due to its association with the death of light. The barrier between the world of the living and the realm of the dead was supposedly lowered on this day.”
Superstition was aided by technological advances. Modern gas lamps provided eerily dim light, leaving room for the imagination. In a creaky old house filled with flickering shadows, ghosts were easily believable.
Dickens, of course, was a firm supporter of the Christmas Eve ghost story tradition. What first comes to mind, of course, is A Christmas Carol, a story so deeply ingrained in our culture that we all know the story. (I admit, I haven’t read it. But I hope to someday!) We all know of the hard-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge who is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Always big on enforcing strong moral messages, Dickens nails Scrooge’s story with a lesson on appreciating life and showing kindness to those less fortunate.
A lover of drama, Dickens took immense pleasure in doing readings of his work. Last Fall, when I toured the Charles Dickens Museum, I actually got to stand in the room of his house where he used to present read to his family and friends. They still have the podium he used. He would stand there on Christmas Eve and read off his latest ghost story for his loved ones, thrilling them with dramatic voices and pauses. It was really a treat getting to see into the famous author’s world.
I stumbled upon many fascinating and fun articles while researching for this post, and my favorite was probably one from The Guardian by Kira Cochrane. If this post has piqued your interest, I highly recommend checking her article out!
What do you think about the Victorians and their ghost stories? Do you wish this tradition was still around today? Why or why not?