Getting into the spirit: how Christmas makes us think of ghosts

Yuletide ghost stories have shaped my life – as well as my understanding of what happens next…

Scrooge was famously haunted by three spectral visitors at Christmas time, but the tradition of telling ghost stories at midwinter goes back much further than Dickens. People have been gathering around the fire to tell stories at Yule, the pagan festival to mark the winter solstice, for centuries. As the year comes to a close, it’s natural to think about loved ones no longer with us – and what better time for ghosts to draw near than deepest, darkest winter?

Thinking about the dead and remembering the past go hand in hand, especially at Christmas. Perhaps it’s no surprise the most wonderful time of the year promises scary ghost stories. Reminiscing, it seems, is as compulsory as turkey and tinsel – whether that’s talking about old times with family, re-watching comedy classics, or remembering our childhood days. When I look back at my childhood, few memories are more vivid than the time I saw a ghost. I appreciate that what I’m about to say sounds like fiction, but whether or not it was real or imagined, the experience undeniably shaped my life and the person I am today.

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