December 26, 2010

Christmas Ghost Stories: A Lost Tradition

Charles Dickens in 1842

During the 1820s-1830s, there was a heightened interest in forgotten Christmas traditions. Many traditions such as Christmas Ghost stories, decorating trees, and carol singing. 

The industrial revolution left families with more time and money to celebrate the Christmas holiday. Images of Prince Albert and his family celebrating Christmas, were published and republished, which further popularized forgotten Christmas traditions. Our celebrations today are a direct result of the Victorian celebrations. People sent Christmas Cards, went caroling, and even gave gifts.

Telling Christmas ghost stories was a popular Christmas tradition in the early and mid 1800s that has not survived to today. The most famous Christmas ghost story is by far, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens was inspired to write a Christmas Carol when his father was imprisoned for debt and Charles had to work in a shoe-blackening factory among the poor. Seeing the poor working conditions coupled with the lack of Christmas celebrations among all people incited him to write about the forgotten traditions and greed.  

Christmas ghost stories were widely popular in the 1830-40s, many writers wrote their own. Magazines of the time almost always included a ghost story in their issue for December.  It is thought that the ghost story tradition originated from the celebration of the winter solstice, or Yule. The shortest day of the year was associated with the "death of the sun" and its "rebirth."  The twelve days of Christmas also comes from traditional the Yule celebrations which lasted for 12 days.

Some Victorian Ghost Stories:
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
- A Christmas Ghost Story by Thomas Hardy.
- Winnie and Walter's Christmas Stories by Increase Niles Tarbox.
- A Ghost Story for Christmas by Dudley Costello


  1. Hi Stephanie -
    I'm not sure how it happened, but when I click on your - Two Ghost Stories from Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens link it takes me right to my might want to check it out to see what happened.

  2. I'm not sure what happened. I am on a different computer than I normally use and was having problems getting the formatting right. It probably has to do with that somehow. It works for me, I'll have to wait until I can get on another computer to see what is wrong. Thanks so much for letting me know. I hope you had a good Christmas.

  3. I appreciate it - - yes! I had a wonderful Christmas, thank you!
    When one can take the best of the past and apply it to the present one can't help but to have a fine time!
    I hope yours was very nice as well.

  4. I just listened to A Christmas Carol, read by TIm Curry, and it's fabulous - he really brings out that it's a ghost story, something that gets lost in the many movies. It's available on Audible, if anyone's interested.

    I had no idea that Yule was the name of the pagan festival! I knew that many of our Christmas traditions grew out of that, but what an eye-opener that they're so closely related. Thanks!

  5. Very interesting. :) That is what my husband asked for this Christmas, A Christmas Carol- unabridged. :)

  6. Beth, I've never heard that one. I like it a bit scary too.

    Sarah Lynn, I love A Christmas Carol. It's by far my favorite Christmas story.

  7. I love the Christmas carol.And I don't know many other ghost stories. Thanks for recommending and Merry Christmas!

  8. I had heard of telling ghost stories at Christmas, but I had absolutely no clue why you would do that. Thank you for shedding light on what sounds like a fun lost tradition!


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