Sparkle Beasts and Victorian Ghosts
December 19, 2023
We feel like people are sorted into two boxes during the months of November and December.
Either you LOVE the holidays (“holidays” often being code for Christmas), wear plaid, tinsel, and an honest-to-god Santa hat for weeks at a time while mainlining eggnog and Hallmark Christmas movies
You were over it on November 1st. You long for January.
And, to be fair, people on both ends of this spectrum 100% exist. Some of our besties are full-on December sparkle beasts, and some are not here for Secret Santa, and we love all of them.
But that’s the thing. It’s a spectrum, right? And we don’t see people talking about this much as anything other than a binary.
What about the people who love the holiday season but are also feeling melancholy or isolated?
What about the people who just want to celebrate a holiday that isn’t Christmas (or not celebrate at all) without being bombarded with the firehose that is Ambient Christmas in the US?
What about the people who really enjoy the festive blur that is Thanksgiving-Christmas-Hanukkah-New Years (to combine the holidays that Sara and Brittany celebrate, for instance) but have come to feel the weight of the season.
(Wherever you fall on this spectrum, we’re sending fairy dust and hope you have the best possible December, whatever that means to you.)
And what on earth is going on with the resurgence in the interest in Krampus, Christmas ghost stories, and what we’ll refer to generally (and lovingly) as creepy Christmas?
Last week, we (virtually) sat down with Kelly J. Baker & John Brooks of the podcast Pod Only Knows (best podcast name EVER, right?) to talk a bit about that last one.
They invited us on the show to talk about Victorian Christmas ghost stories (we both specialized in 19th-century Victorian lit in addition to folklore in our PhD program, so we were HERE FOR IT), but at the end of the talk, John asked us why.
Why are people so interested in making Christmas, and the winter season in general, creepy again?
(Goodness knows we are! That’s why a huge chunk of our mini course Kindling a Light in the Darkness is about macabre seasonal folklore like the Central European Krampus, the Icelandic Yule Cat, and the Welsh Mari Lwyd! What season isn’t improved by a horse head skeleton on a stick with lots of singing?)
It was a really good question.
(Honestly, all of their questions were fantastic. Check out our episode here and also their podcast in general. Great stuff!)
We think it has something to do with a rebellion against holiday perfectionism. You know, feeling like if you’re not incandescently happy from about November 15th to January 1st, you’re Doing The Holidays Wrong.
But there’s other stuff, too.
You can click here to listen and find out our theories, plus a LOT more about Victorian Christmas ghost stories.