It's Yule, A Night of...Terror?
We ghost enthusiasts love the Victorians. For all their intimacy with death, it's no wonder the obsession with the dark doesn't escape the longest night of the year, Yule (the old name for the winter solstice). Right now the solstice is in full swing and it was at one time a night of scary stories told with a rum nog and healthy fear. The stories commonly told included murder and gruesome details one would typically associate with gorier Halloween. But no, Victorians, for all their creepy aptitude, spent the darkest night of the year telling ghost stories. The holiday traditionally started out on the shortest day, and extended to Christmas morning, slowly incorporating the more modern holiday and its budding traditions.
Of course, one assumes as the nights wore on, the progressively drunker aspects of storytelling crept in as well as some of the more exaggerated and egregious details of these stories. It's not a far reach to understand the popularity of ghost stories at Christmas time, or traditional Yule, since the ghosts that visited Ebenezer Scrooge are widely popular and hold a strict association with the Christmas holiday. The spookiness of A Christmas Carol may be turned down on the weird-shit-o-meter, since Christmas is the holiday of love and good tidings, not death and the afterlife. This was written by Charles Dickens as the traditions of Yule was transitioning and transforming into the modern Christmas we know today. (A lot more Santa Claus, a lot less spooky stories, but as always, heavily spiked egg nog.)
The traditions of the dark days and long nights of Yule are rooted in the Europe's old ghost stories. The tree we decorate was once the Yule log, a whole tree traditionally, and Scandinavian in origin. While we still choose the tree we adorn our houses with with great precision to this day, the fanfare is not of bringing it into the home to burn on the hearth for we nights, but adorning it with ornaments and attempting to keep it alive for those said weeks. This is also a lot safer than a large indoor fire, honoring the winter solstice or not.
Scary winter stories sound a lot more fun than slowly burning the Christmas tree for good luck, and I'm sad to learn how far into the past this tradition has faded. The shortest, darkest days and longest nights are upon us. For those who don't have a spiritual routine or particularly religious holiday situation, scary stories could be just the thing to make new traditions of. If any community were to embrace this practice, it'd be the paranormal one. We're full of stories, and the darkness (shouldn't) scare anyone away from retelling the most terrifying of the past year. For good luck, of course.