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Where Did The Holiday Ghost Story Tradition Come From?

By Amanda Luberto, Mark Brodie, Steve Goldstein
Published: Friday, December 21, 2018 - 1:38pm
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Have you ever wondered how “scary ghost stories” made it on the list of things in the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” or why Charles Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol” features so many ghosts?

The tradition seems to stretch back long before Dickens, to the pagan Winter Solstice celebration. This Friday, in fact, is the winter solstice — the shortest day of the year, which has the longest amount of darkness. 

But then the Industrial Revolution happened and the darkness was replaced by the light of magical electricity in almost every home. You’d think this would've been the end of the ghostly tradition, so why are these spirits still haunting the holidays? 

Tracy Fessenden is a professor of religious studies at Arizona State University. The Show asked her about holiday specters during the Solstice.

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