I'm sure you've heard the line, and possibly sang it hundreds of times for yourself..."There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago!" But, have you ever really asked yourself what it MEANS? Plenty of people have pondered the subject and many of those have written extensively their own theories, but the answer is actually quite simple. This favorite line in It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, is referring to a Victorian tradition that I personally hope will see a rebirth in the 21st century...and that is the tradition of telling ghost stories, not at Halloween, but at CHRISTMAS time!
Once you think about it, supporting evidence seems to pop up everywhere in pop culture. Charles Dickens' iconic classic, A Christmas Carol is one such example, being listed as one of the most widely known ghost stories of all time! For those of you who fell in love with the Woman in Black movie this year, if you read the actual book, you'd find that Arthur Kripps is actually recounting his tale during his family's Christmas celebration!
But WHY did ghost stories become such an enthralling yuletide pasttime? That answer is a little more vague and ambiguous and I don't think there is any one straight forward, all-encompassing answer. I've heard other bloggers mention that the telling of ghost stories was a way to calm down overly excited children for awhile. I've also heard almost the opposite--that the winter telling of ghost stories was an exciting way to blow off steam after being cooped up inside for so long. Some have even mentioned that during the Victorian era, new books were usually published right before Christmas, and since the Victorians loved their ghost stories, the new batch usually always contained something creepy for people to share around the fire.
Still, its widely believed that the tradition comes from simply the time of year, and its pagan connections. During the winter solstice, on December 21st, the day is the shortage of the year, making the night the longest of the year. Thus, the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead are at their all-time thinnest. The world around us is "dead" and cold and dark...a perfect recipe for ghosts to walk the earth. The actual connection with Christmas, comes from the ideas that there is no hard evidence mentioned anywhere that Christ was born on December 25th. Rather, in the early days, the church, trying to eradicate pagan festivals, actually overlaid Christian holidays with pagan celebrations. In fact, many other Christmas traditions, full embraced during the Victorian era, stem from pagan celebrations.
In a very modern perspective, Christmas DOES seem to stir up thoughts of ghosts for a variety of reasons. Christmas, and other winter holidays, are times when families come together. Why shouldn't those family members that have already passed be a part of the celebration, too? In fact, many people do report visits from deceased loved ones this time of year and paranormal websites are flooded with "ghost" photos around the tree! Some cultures have formal traditions incorporating departed loved ones on the holidays, such as the Ukrainian tradition of setting a place at the holiday table for deceased family.
And, there are even some other reasons why Christmas time seems to be QUITE haunted. When we look at the past, there are a lot of tragedies associated with winter. In a time before modern medicine, it wasn't unheard of to die of the common cold or flu...often in the winter months. This was also a time of many accidents as candles and fireplaces were instrumented to a much greater degree to light the long nights and warm the cold. Accidents involving icy roads and runaway oxen carts were also quite common!
So, this Christmas, after the obligatory reading of the Night Before Christmas, nestle by the fire and regale friends and family with your OWN personal ghost stories, or pick a volume of ghost tales from any of the numerous books at your local library or bookstore. Keep your camera handy, too, but if you can't wait until Christmas Day for a little paranormal fun, we have an alternative for those of you living in the tri-state area!
2018 Update: There will be no Christmas Tours this year. Sorry!
As the Christmas season is upon us, HPIR's Haunted and Historic Guyandotte Tours is offering a unique experience for our tour guests! Tomorrow, December 15th, we will be conducting our first ever Victorian Christmas Ghost Tours of the sleepy little hamlet of Guyandotte, WV. Please join us as we share with you the history and the haunts of some of the many Victorian era homes, some undoubtedy decorated festivally and beautifully for the season!
This is a one-day only event, and tours will meet in front of the historic Buffington House on Main Street. Our first tour leaves at 5pm, but with limited space available, you may pick up your tickets and designate a preferred time slot as early as 4pm. A wonderful spread of refreshments will be available FREE for all tour patrons.
As this IS the holiday season, we at HPIR and Haunted and Historic Guyandotte Tours would like to give back to our community. For that reason, we are asking for tour patrons to make a donation of either 2 non-perishable food items OR $1 per guest. 100% of donations will go to area charities to help ensure everyone in the Huntington area is taken care of this winter. We would love for you to join us in this very special walking tour, which lasts a little under an hour and a half. Please dress warmly and feel free to bring your camera! Flashlights are also highly recommended and our website, listed below, will have all the information you need!