* OFFICIAL *
Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
- Feb 5, 2017
Though the practice is now more associated with Halloween, spooking out your family is well within the Christmas spirit
The transition from Christmas to Halloween as the preeminent holiday for ghosts was an uneven one. Even as late as 1915, Christmas annuals of magazines were still dominated by ghost stories, and Florence Kingsland’s 1904 Book of Indoor and Outdoor Games still lists ghost stories as fine fare for a Christmas celebration: “The realm of spirits was always thought to be nearer to that of mortals on Christmas than at any other time,” she writes.
For decades, these two celebrations of the oncoming winter bookended a time when ghosts were in the air, and we kept the dead close to us. My own family has for years invited friends over around the holidays to tell ghost stories. Instead of exchanging gifts, we exchange stories—true or invented, it doesn’t matter. People are inevitably sheepish at first, but once the stories start flowing, it isn’t long before everyone has something to offer. It’s a refreshing alternative to the oft-forced yuletide joy and commercialization; resurrecting the dead tradition of ghost stories as another way to celebrate Christmas.
In his Harper’s editorial, Howells laments the loss of the Dickensian ghost story, waxing nostalgic for a return to scary stories with a firm set of morals:
“It was well once a year, if not oftener, to remind men by parable of the old, simple truths; to teach them that forgiveness, and charity, and the endeavor for life better and purer than each has lived, are the principles upon which alone the world holds together and gets forward. It was well for the comfortable and the refined to be put in mind of the savagery and suffering all round them, and to be taught, as Dickens was always teaching, that certain feelings which grace human nature, as tenderness for the sick and helpless, self-sacrifice and generosity, self-respect and manliness and womanliness, are the common heritage of the race, the direct gift of Heaven, shared equally by the rich and poor.”