Telling ghost stories is a lost tradition on Christmas Eve

By Jeffrey Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Dec. 23 2010 4:35 p.m. MST

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.

So if you decide to watch "The Others" or "The Sixth Sense" this Christmas Eve instead of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” or “Elf," you'll be keeping alive a Victorian Christmas Eve tradition.

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