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Christmas is one of the most wonderful times of the year. But did you know that it also used to be one of the spookiest? It’s true! In fact, telling ghost stories around the holidays is a tradition that’s been around for a long time, but it’s become less common over the last century. Let's look at how this spooky tradition came about:
Nobody is quite sure when ghost stories first became associated with Christmastime. Some people actually believe the tradition is older than Christmas itself! Before Christmas was a holiday, the Germanic people of Europe celebrated a festival called Yule, which came at the end of the year.
During the longest darkest nights of the year, it was thought that the barrier between our world and the afterlife became thinner, and ghosts were more likely to appear on Earth. This lead to all kinds of stories about ghosts being told. Eventually, many Yule traditions were incorporated into Christmas, including ghost stories.
In 1863, Charles Dickens published his famous novel A Christmas Carol. The book was a huge hit, and helped reignite people’s love for the Christmas season! It also helped to associate the season with ghosts, like those that visited mean old Scrooge to help him mend his ways.
After that, ghost stories became a beloved part of Christmas in England. Families would gather around the fire and read stories to scare and thrill one another. Some people read stories written by popular authors of the day, while others came up with their own. Others still told stories that had been passed down in their families for generations!
One of the best ghost story writers of all time was a man named M.R. James. James was a professor, but one of his favourite hobbies was writing ghost stories. Back in the early 1900s, he would throw parties for friends and students every Christmas Eve. There, he would tell his latest story. He didn’t just read it — he would act it out, with gestures and voices and more. It was quite an experience!
If the Christmas ghost storytelling sounds like a fun tradition, you could try writing one of your own! Here are a few tips that M.R. James thought made for a chilling tale:
Have fun, and have a wonderfully ghoulish Christmas!