Hey Scaredy Cats. There’s a line in the song It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year that goes “there’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long long ago” It may seem odd to us now, but telling spooky stories at Christmas was a tradition that saw its peak during the Victorian era in Great Britain. The most famous example is probably A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, but many writers in the late 19th and early 20th century published ghost stories that would be read around a fire as the nights grew longer and colder.
So why ghost stories? Christmas is supposed to be festive and joyful, right? Take into consideration that Christmas is inextricably tied with pagan traditions that marked the winter solstice. Pagans believed that the winter solstice was when the veil between the living and dead was at its thinnest. Yule has been linked to The Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession in the sky and increased supernatural activity. So, what did folks do when the nights were long and cold and they didn’t have a whole lot of other diversions? They would tell spooky stories by the fire, some of which were passed down orally. With the Industrial Revolution, these stories could now be printed and stories like A Christmas Carol became popular in periodicals and books.
The trend may not have caught on in North America, but as someone who wants to consume spooky things all year round, it’s a tradition that I’ve embraced over the past few years. And now, I’d like to share some of these stories with you. For the seven days leading up to Christmas, we’ll be releasing one story a day. Who knows, we might even have some special guests on to read a story or two!
Part One: Smee by A.M. Burrage