How Ghost Stories Became a Christmas Tradition in Victorian England

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Towards the end of each year, as fireplaces are lit and hot cocoa is made, Americans have made it a tradition to revisit their favorite classic holiday books, movies and songs. And though ghost stories may seem out of place in present-day American holiday celebrations, they were once a Christmas staple, reaching their peak of popularity in Victorian England.

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A Dark, Spooky Time of Year

Like most longstanding cultural customs, the precise origin of telling ghost stories at the end of the year is unknown, largely because it began as an oral tradition without written records. But, according to Sara Cleto, a folklorist specializing in British literature and co-founder of The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic, the season around winter solstice, has been one of transition and change. “For a very, very, very long time, [the season] has provoked oral stories about spooky things in many different countries and cultures all over the world,” she says.



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