Thursday, December 20, 2012

All I Want For Christmas Is A Good Ghost Story: Part 1

~ by Marie Robinson

Happy Holidays, everyone! Christmas is drawing ever near… There are some people who just love Christmas. Perhaps the most famous literary Christmas-lover was the great Charles Dickens.

Not only did he adore the holiday, he was a huge influence on it. I’m not kidding, this guy shaped Victorian Christmas. Tell me of a person who has never seen, read, or heard of A Christmas Carol and I will personally slap them. It was first published on December 17th, 1843 and sold over 5,000 copies by Christmas Eve. Over fifty film, theatre and television adaptations have been made. It is no wonder that Dickens considered A Christmas Carol to be his greatest achievement.

Before A Christmas Carol, Christmas in the mid-Victorian era was all about the Christ. And the mass. Come on, let’s be honest, no one wants to sit in church all fucking day. Of course, people were thrilled when Dickens came along and brought some secular fun to the season. He believed Christmas was all about being with family, dancing, laughing, giving to charity, and of course, telling stories.

If you don’t believe me that Dickens influenced Christmas, listen to Professor Hubert Lamb’s argument on the matter. He says that Dickens birthed the popular notion of a “white Christmas”. He went so far to prove his point and documented that a white Christmas occurred for the first eight straight years of Dickens’ life. Our bibliophile climatic researcher says that white Christmases are actually uncommon, but we have come to cherish them because of Dickens’ classic.

After the release of A Christmas Carol, the quintessential Christmas ghost story, Dickens decided to write a handful of others. He penned what were titled, “The Christmas Books” which included the short stories The Chimes (1844), The Cricket on the Hearth (1845), The Battle of Life (1846), and The Haunted Man (1848). Some are these are more supernatural than others, and most are hardly terrifying but he was determined and inspired to keep up the tradition. A few other Christmas ghost stories Dickens wrote are The Haunted House, Christmas Ghosts, The Trail for Murder and The Signal-Man which was adapted for the 1970 BBC mini-series A Ghost Story for Christmas. In reference to these tales author Peter Straub calls them, “A lively mixture of comedy, pathos, and the supernatural.”

A prototype of sorts to A Christmas Carol is The Story of the Goblins who Stole a Sexton. Released in December of 1836 it tells of a man named Grub, who is near identical to Scrooge, and chooses to go mope around in the graveyard on Christmas Eve. There he meets a ghostly figure who tells him how much his life is gonna suck if he doesn’t cheer up. If you wanted to take a simple moral from these stories it would be “Christmas is awesome!” But we know that Dickens was trying to say a little more than that. We get the Scrooge archetype yet again in A Haunted Man, where a grouchy old man is forced by a frightful apparition to reexamine his life. Dickens used this plot device to encourage a reassessment by his characters and his audience. He believes that the Christmas season is not only for nostalgia but also for change.

“…for we are telling Winter Stories—Ghost Stories, or more shame for us—round the Christmas fire; and we have never stirred, except to draw a little nearer to it.” –Charles Dickens, Christmas Ghosts


jervaise brooke hamster said...

Merry Christmas Christine, have a great time little darlin`.

Christine Hadden said...

Thank you, JBH. You do the same ;)