Did you ever think it odd that the Christmas Carol, our most famous bit of Christmas fiction, is a ghost story? Did you? Really?
You’re an ignorant sack of filth, then. The ghost story has been a feature of British Christmas celebration since…well, I’m not sure when. Early Victorian times, anyhow.
You can see how that came to be: cold, dark late December nights, families were gathered together around a fire of an evening telling stories. The Christmas edition of many magazines (including the one Dickens edited) were full of ghost stories to be read aloud.
The tradition has continued, sort of. The BBC manages to trot out a few old (and the occasional new) productions of classic ghost stories Christmas week. Mainly M. R. James.
I’m not usually a fan of the classic ghost story (which James largely invented). You know, the kind of thing where the divinity student’s hair turns dead white because of something too awful to be described that he saw in the upstairs linen closet of the old rectory. Honestly, if you can’t describe the central point of your own story, you’re not much of a writer, are you? Yeah, you’re just bluffing, aren’t you? Couldn’t think of anything really awful, could you? Time waster!
But Christmas isn’t the time for slasher movies. It’s a time for screaming skulls and mad, promiscuous ethereal nuns (at least, that’s what Mother used to say). A good old fashioned Victorian tease of a ghost story has been part of my personal Christmas Eve ritual for many years. I highly recommend it.
Think of it as preparation for next week’s delirium tremens.