It's the Most Wonderful Time...

"Sing it with me! 

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you "Be of good cheer"
It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
It's the hap -happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call 

It's the hap - happiest season of all

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

It's The Most Wonderful Ti....   Wait. What??

Hold that sled just a second. "There'll be scary ghost stories?" It's Christmas not Halloween... WTH?"

You've just read a fairly accurate portrayal of me, Alex, about four weeks ago when I finally (after 40-*cough* years on this earth) finally, actually processed that line of the song.

This led to a little bit of obsessive thinking every time I heard the song again - which, if you're listening to the "all Christmas, all the time" radio station is about every 22 minutes.

Yesterday, Cassandra suggested that I use today's blog post to "explore the English tradition of Christmas ghost stories." ...Wait. What?? There's actually a basis for that freaky line in the song? *facepalm*

So yeah. I thought I'd load y'all up with a bunch of links about the history of the tradition but all I could really find were vague references to pre-Christian, European oral traditions and evidence of the fact that the Victorians (obsessed with death and spirits as they were) were very fond of the Christmas ghost story. As Cassandra most eloquently put it, "You do realize that is why 'A Christmas Carol' is a ghost story, right? Dickens didn't just pull the concept out of his ass."

The best resource I found was from a literary researcher named Richard Dalby. Dalby has a penchant for the supernatural and many of the books and anthologies he's contributed to have this theme. One (sadly out of print, it seems), "Ghosts for Christmas," is a compilation of Christmas-themed ghost stories, I'm assuming from Victorian times. Here's the list of stories included:

"Our Ghost Party" - Jerome K. Jerome
"The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton - Charles Dickens
"The Ghost Detective" - Mark Lemon
"The Dead Sexton" - J. Sheridan Le Fanu
"Markheim" - Robert Louis Stevenson
"The Ghost of Christmas Eve" - J.M. Barrie
"The Real and the Counterfeit" - Mrs. Alfred Baldwin
"Number Ninety" - Mrs. B.M. Croker
"Thurlow's Christmas Story" - J.K. Bangs
"Their Dear Little Ghost" - Elia W. Peattie
"Wolverton Tower" - Grant Allen
"A Ghost-Child" - Bernard Capes
"The Kit-Bag" - Algernon Blackwood
"The Shadow" - E. Nesbit
"The Irtonwood Ghost" - Elinor Glyn
"Bone To His Bone" - E.G. Swain
"Transition" - Algernon Blackwood
"The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance" - M.R. James
"The Sculptor's Angel" - Marie Corelli
"The Snow" - Hugh Walpole
"Smee" - A.M. Burrage
"The Prescription" - Marjorie Bowen
"The Demon King" - J.B. Priestly
"Lucky's Grove" - H. Russell Wakefield
"I Shall Take Proper Precautions" - George H. Bushnell
"Christmas Meeting" - Rosemary Timperley
"Someone In The Lift" - L.P. Hartley
"The Christmas Present" - Ramsey Campbell
"Christmas Entertainment" - Daphne Froome
"Gebal and Ammon and Amalek" - David G. Rowlands

So now I'm on the hunt for a copy of this book and I'll be doing some independent, Interwebz research to see if I can find out more about this craziness. I'm not sure what was up with the Victorians and death but I found an interesting article written by someone at Berkley called "A Victorian Obsession With Death."

You know...suddenly the "hap-happiest time of the year" became awfully maudlin.

- Alex

Dec 24 - Postscript:  I follow a few blogs including one called "Forgotten Classics" which focuses on less-well-known classic literature. Guess what the post was today... Christmas Ghost Stories (of course). Check it out! Forgotten Classics: Episode 145 - Two Christmas Ghost Stories.

1 comment:

  1. Cool! I wish I would've read this sooner, I love ghost stories! There is a copy available right now at the central branch of the Madison Public Library.