Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Victorian Christmas Custom...!

There are many different customs surrounding the holidays, and many of them stem from the Victorian era.

One thing about the folks back then, they could really put a party type spin on certain things. Strange as someof them seem now days, it might be fun to try and follow their example for a bit.

The Victorians’ Creepy Christmas Eve Tradition
By Katie Bohn on Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Ah, Christmas Eve. A time for family, eggnog, and . . . ghost stories? For the Victorians it was. For years, it was tradition for a family to gather by the fireplace the night before Christmas to trade ghost stories—often tales the storyteller himself claimed to have experienced first-hand.

The Victorians essentially invented the modern Christmas, and many of their traditions have stuck around to this day: decorating the evergreen tree, singing Christmas carols, and good old Saint Nick himself. But cozying up to the fire to tell ghostly tales is one custom that has faded from popular culture—although it does make all the ghosts in A Christmas Carol make a whole lot more sense.

But what did they find so creepy about Christmas, anyway? Aren’t ghost stories more suitable for Halloween? Maybe not. Think about it—the sun setting at 4:30 in the afternoon, long shadows sent through the house by candlelight, and the wind whistling through the rafters. Pretty creepy.

Additionally, December 25 was reserved for Christmas not because it was written in the Bible, but because it was connected to Pagan festivals that celebrated the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The solstice was also considered the most haunted day of the year due to its association with the death of light. The barrier between the world of the living and the realm of the dead was supposedly lowered on this day. Thus the tradition was born.

True, the Victorians were already pretty preoccupied with death, but they were also romantics. What could be more romantic than the belief that life can extend to another plane of existence? That a lovestruck maiden could come back to search for her lost love, or a wronged gentleman could transcend death to wreak rightful revenge? Victorians enjoyed ghost stories because they gave them hope that their spirit could live on even when their body didn’t.
The spectral tradition shows up in many Victorian novels, A Christmas Carol being just one of them. Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black has a frame narrative; the narrator tells the story to his friends on Christmas Eve. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James also begins this way, and M.R. James wrote his collection Ghost Stories of an Antiquary to be read on the eve of the holiday. Much more recently, Christmas was blended with the undead in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.

It’s unclear when the tradition faded into obscurity, but there’s no reason why it can’t be brought back into fashion. Go traditional with ghost stories around the fire (or heater, for those not living in Victorian mansions) or watch one of the many Christmas-themed horror movies. Because a man breaking into your house through the chimney isn’t scary enough.

Hey, family time is family time, even if it means telling ghost stories around the fireplace on Christmas Eve. I reckon we should take it whenever we can, right? I have to thank the folks over at KnowledgeNuts for telling us about this custom. They always have some good stuff, know what I mean?

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Expecting a high of 79 today...maybe!


Mamahen said...

Hmmm....I think I'm just as glad that tradition died out.... 79! Why is it live in Ohio lol....Hubby is pretty sore but I think is healing nicely...Thank you for your concern :))

Chickenmom said...

See, the Victorian weren't a bunch of prudes after all!79 degrees? Turn on the A/C! I'll bring the ice cream. Glad Hubby is mending, Mamahen!

linda m said...

I love some of the Christmas ghost stories with A Christmas Carol being one of my favorites. The whole thing about ghost stories on Christmas Eve makes sense to me when connected to the Winter Solstice. I'll take 79 any day over 41, foggy and raining. Glad Hubby is healing, Mamahen. I'll bring some chocolate syrup and nuts to go with the ice cream - we'll make sundaes.

JO said...

Mamahen, must have missed something about your hubby but good to hear he is doing well.

I love the original A Christmas Carol don't see that anymore. I never heard of the Victorian Christmas Eve before.
Well I'm off to Walmart ugh

HermitJim said...

Hey Mamahen...
No one seems to get together on Christmas Eve here anymore. Telling ghost stories might be fun if we did.

Glad he is healing up, and that all is well.

Thanks for dropping by today!

Hey Phyllis...
Guess they knew a few ways to have some fun!

Ice cream always sounds good to me!

Tanks for coming over!

Hey Linda M...
Ice cream sundaes with coffee sounds like a good deal to me.

Thanks for stopping by today!

Hey Jo...
Some of the original Christmas stories and movies are still the best, I think.

Thanks, sweetie, for dropping by today!

Dizzy-Dick said...

It seems strange that the birth of Christianity is observed during the yule season which was a pagan holiday. That pagan holiday custom is where we got the tradition of the Christmas tree.

Mamahen said...

Thank everyone for good thoughts....Jo...my hubby had to have pacemaker last Thursday..