Winter Ghost Stories

On a long car ride, I had the radio blaring Christmas songs. It’s the one time of year where you can really justify listening to Christmas music and not get funny looks. (Though, I admittedly enjoy Christmas songs in July and August when it’s over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit outside because it makes me think cool thoughts.) As the radio blared, I sang loudly. My cheeks were rosy with the effort of singing, and I was having a jolly old time even if I may have been off-key at times because I knew– despite the rare glimpse of other drivers– they couldn’t hear me, and therefore could not hear me make up words to songs I didn’t know!

On the radio came “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, a 1963 song celebrating Christmas which was written by Edward Pola and George Wyle. It was performed by pop singer Andy Williams that same year. As I stopped singing to listen to the song’s lyrics, one of the lines from the song really struck me:

There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.

The line made me stop and think about why we might not carry out this tradition– sung about a mere half-century ago. What caused it to fall out of favor?

Christmas is one of those Pagan festivals that has been transmogrified, and adopted by Christianity to get more people involved in the Christian churches. I’m in no way implicating that Christianity is bad or that Pagan beliefs are bad. I’m only querying, as Oliver Cromwell also did, that if The Holy Bible says Jesus Christ was born in the spring, why do we then celebrate his Birth in the middle of winter?

The Pagan festivals of Yule and Sol Invictus (the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun) were a celebration of the longest night of the year– the winter solstice– representing the death of light and the rebirth of the sun. The telling of ghost stories naturally originated from the belief that the veil between worlds was thinner during the longest night of the year. Conveniently, the “Birthday of the (Son)” was easy to adopt into Christianity, and the adoption of these festivals into Christian practices came naturally. Now, the line between the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ and the Pagan celebrations of winter solstice is invisible. (My only complaint is that Halloween gets the bad karma since it’s pretty much a similar celebration!)

The telling of ghost stories around Christmas is no longer as popular as it was in the Victorian era. We have wonderful ghost stories from that time– Wuthering Heights, The House of Seven Gables, A Christmas Carol. In Victorian times (approximately 1840-1900), the belief in the paranormal and occult was very popular. The belief in the after-life and ghosts was very strong, but that belief gradually became faux pas.

Now that ghost stories are coming back, I invite you all to help bring back this holiday tradition. Curl up around the fireplace and a cup of hot cocoa and weave a good yarn or two, you know, to help the kiddies sleep better at night.

* “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (Song) sung by Andy Williams, written by Edward Pola and George Wyle
* Peterson, Jeffrey. “Telling Ghost Stories is a Lost Tradition on Christmas Eve.” Deseret News. Online. 23 Dec. 2010. Available:


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