Don’t ask me why Christmas is traditionally a time for ghost stories in England. Perhaps Charles Dickens started it all with A Christmas Carol, but I suspect it goes deeper than that, way back, in the oral tradition, to icy winter nights and the need to draw closer to the fire and, safe and warm, remind ourselves of our own mortality as the year turns. It’s a time of transition. Long winter nights evoke tales of the supernatural as we look, with hope, towards spring.
The Victorians commercialised Christmas. Literacy rates were growing, printed books and ‘penny dreadfuls’ were accessible and affordable. Whole families could read these stories together.
Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843, which opened the floodgates for more spooky stories. Dickens himself wrote plenty, with themes of redemption, forgiveness and reunion. Other authors such as Elizabeth Gaskell, and Arthur Conan Doyle contributed weird and wonderful stories, too..
It’s not just England, of course. Other cultures around the world tell supernatural stories at the darkest times of the year. In America , though Dickens was hugely popular and A Christmas Carol a best seller, the season for ghost stories was largely Halloween.
So as the winter power cuts darken your evenings and you and your family sit around your hot water bottles cursing the government, Putin and Brexit, cheer yourselves up by dragging out an old ghost story and remind yourselves that things could be worse.
Very best wishes for the season, however you celebrate, and whomever you celebrate it with, from all here at Milford Towers. May your light return and your dark shadows flee.