Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Slightly Haunted Christmas

Did you know that people used to tell ghost stories at Christmastime?
You know, like the carol says:
There'll be parties for hosting,
marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow.
There'll be scary ghost stories
and tales of the glories of
Christmases long, long ago
I wanted to learn more about the topic, and the best (quickest info) I could find was this article in the Deseret News from last year. Here is a bit from it:

     As Lord Protector of England during the mid-17th century, Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell was perhaps not entirely without justification when he tried to abolish the celebration of Christmas. As he argued, nowhere in the Bible does it tell Christians to celebrate Christ’s birth on the 25th of December. Nor, in fact, does it mention any “holy day” other than the Lord’s Sabbath. 
     On top of that, the 25th of December was not an arbitrary choice for early Christians. Rather, it was selected because of its connection with pagan festivals like Yule and Sol Invictus (the birthday of the Unconquered Sun), both of which commemorated the winter solstice or the longest night of the year. These festivals celebrated the death of light and its subsequent rebirth the following day. It was for the obvious symbolic connotations that early Christians adopted dates significant to pagan Romans and Northern Europeans.
     In addition to being the longest night of the year, however, winter solstice was also traditionally held to be the most haunted due to its association with the death of the sun and light. It was the one night of the year when the barrier between the worlds of the living and the deceased was thinnest. On Christmas Eve, ghosts could walk the earth and finish unsettled business, as exemplified by the apparition of Marley in Charles Dickens' Christmas masterpiece.
     In short, the Victorian Christmas celebration, which drew heavily on pagan symbols like yule logs, holly berries and Father Christmas himself, also embraced the winter holiday’s associations with the supernatural to create one of its most popular annual traditions. Unfortunately, of all the traditions and rituals that have survived through the generations, the Victorian custom of recounting blood-curdling ghost stories with friends and family around the fire on Christmas Eve has been almost completely forgotten.

Let's keep this tradition alive; I think it's wonderful. Will you join me?

Actually, what really inspired this post was a certain song that I found. You can listen it on this podcast. The whole session is great, but go to 9:55 to hear a particularly bewitching version of "White Christmas" as interpreted by Ragtime Ralph. It takes a while to load, but it's worth it.

When I listen to it, I can't tell if it make me happy or sad. It leaves me somewhere in between, undecided. I love it.

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