How Ghost Stories Became a Christmas Tradition
Christmas presents have been opened, and the hot cocoa has been poured while Christmas classics adorn the television. The stockings have been emptied, and everyone has filled up on all of their holiday favorites. The day is coming to an end, which means there’s just one tradition left to partake in—the one that truly makes it a magical day.
For some, Halloween is resurrected around the fireplace, ending the day of festivities with some good ol’ family scares. Christmas may have its own famous ghostly tales, such as A Christmas Carol, that make their annual rounds, but the stories are a little more sinister in other parts of the world. And some are terrifyingly real.
Though ghost stories for Christmas may appear too dark of a tradition to adopt during the merry and bright season, in some regions, it’s as normal as Christmas trees and getting socks as a stocking stuffer. It’s easy to see why we love mixing mistletoe with the macabre, but before we indulged in scary stories to tell around a Christmas fire, pioneers were paving the way for these tales to have a place in the holiday cheer.
Keep reading to learn more about this creepy Christmas tradition that’s been bringing families together for centuries.
Halloween for Christmas
In the days before Hallmark and 24 Hours of A Christmas Story, the holidays were usually spent in darkness and quiet. The frigid temperatures required workers to head home early, and in an era that pre-dated electricity, families had very few options when it came to entertainment. In Victorian England, they capitalized on the extra leisure time by gathering around a warm fire and trying to out-scare each other with spine-chilling tales that were spookier than the last.
But in Victorian England, it got a little darker than the tales. You see, several of the stories they told weren’t those from a book. These creepy Christmas tales were all true. In fact, one such tale is that of Sir Geoffrey and The Headless Hound, a story that we featured during our 25 Days of Creepy Christmas series.
As the years went on, technology began to erupt and evolve, with the printing press merging and providing another outlet for these terrifying tales to make the rounds. With the ghost stories making their way to print, authors were now being given the opportunity to get their ghastly narratives out to a broader audience. One author who rose to prominence during this era was Elizabeth Gaskell, a writer whose ghost stories received the Charles Dickens stamp of approval, with one of her stories also being featured on our 25 Days of Creepy Christmas.
Now that people were able to take written versions of their favorite fear-inducing narratives with them as they left their childhood homes, this trend became a tradition in England. And then Charles Dickens wrote his novella A Christmas Carol, and America would soon have another holiday tradition to look forward to.
Creepy Christmas Comes to America
Though he was already a world-famous author and had been writing and publishing scary holiday stories for years, his novella A Christmas Carol would be one of his most notable works. The tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and the petrifying ghosts that scare him straight became a staple of the holiday season.
Since its inception, it’s been adopted a hundred times over for both television and live theater and has become engrained in American holiday tradition. It’s also sparked intrigue in additional holiday horror stories, paving the way for these tales to come to life and become classics. Without our friends from across the pond and the mastermind of Charles Dickens launching the idea of spooky storytelling during the holidays, would we have some of our Yuletide horror favorites (Krampus, anyone?) that we enjoy today?
Maybe. Fortunately, we’ll never have to know.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our 25 Days of Creepy Christmas series. May your Christmas be Merry and Bright, and your New Year be filled with the stories you love most and are excited to create.