This time of year people only have one thing on their minds. Everyone is wishing you seasons greetings and the radio stations all play scary ghost stories.
Have you ever wondered why one of the classic Christmas stories is actually a ghost story? I’m talking, of course, about Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Dickens’ story is credited by some with saving Christmas. During the 17th Century Industrial Revolution in England, Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan, banned celebrating Christmas because the bible doesn’t explicitly tell Christians to celebrate Christmas. A Christmas Carol reminded people of many ancient traditions and sparked a renewed interest in the celebration. And fortunately, Cromwell’s reign in England only last five years.
Or what about the line in the Andy Williams song It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year that goes “There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago”?
An English tradition for hundreds of years was telling stories in front of the winter fire. They did this especially around the Winter Solstice which falls a few days before Christmas. I’ve said for years the winter solstice is my least favorite day of the year. It has the shortest amount of daylight and the longest night. Imagine what it was like for someone 500 years ago, wondering if this was the year the night finally won over the day and the days kept getting shorter and shorter until it was night 24 hours a day. No wonder they huddled around the fire for warmth and no wonder the only stories they could think to tell had ghosts in them.
Recently, a writer colleague started something, though, that has made me start liking the day a bit more. While Dickens might have saved Christmas with A Christmas Carol, the tradition of telling scary stories had just about died out, otherwise. Loren Eaton has the I Saw Lightning Fall website and for the last several years he has hosted a writing project for writers to write ghost stories and share them online. He calls it Advent Ghosts. The trick is that the stories are flash fiction… 100 words, no more, no less. Obviously, that is a writing challenge, but it is interesting just how much of a story you can tell with 100 words. It is just as important what you leave unsaid as what you say.
For the last couple years I’ve contributed to the project and I will have two more 100 word stories this year. They will all go online on Dec. 19 if you want to read some of them. You can find the link from my website.
Until then, don’t let winter creep you out…too much..