The Original Holiday Horror: A Christmas Carol

The Original Holiday Horror: A Christmas Carol 

by: Rachael Tamayo

 ‘Twas the night before Christmas… insert ghosts, monsters, bizarre themes, and chilling imagery here. Thankfully there is no shortage of classic holiday ghost stories; being the horror lovers that we are, we’d have it no other way. But the love of all things dark and spooky is not a new thing. It was a common theme in classic nineteenth-century literature, and Christmas tales were no exception. An article on Big Think goes as far as to say that it was a beloved tradition during the 1800s to gather around the fire and tell ghost stories. “Nothing satisfies us on Christmas eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about specters,” wrote Jerome k. Jerome in his 1891 anthology of ghost stories.

 Charles Dickens was no stranger to this, as we all know. In 1843, Charles Dickens penned and published what would become the epitome of past, present, and future Christmas tradition in the instant bestseller that came out December 18th, 1843. 

But why do we love it? And to what intention did he pen such a morbid- yet well-loved tale? Writing about the world’s most well-beloved jerk and the three ghosts that broke it down for him—either stop being such a greedy shellfish dope or spend eternity in the fires of hell. Oh yeah- a little sickly disabled boy might die right alongside you if you don’t. So there’s that too. 

According to Time Magazine, Dickens wrote the tale as commentary to express his opinions on the issues of his time. What he intended to be a pamphlet at first became the most timeless and well-loved Christmas tale in history. His account of child labor, the stricken and sickly poor, took place in what would become known as the “Hungry 40s.” Despite all this, the story has remained nearly 180 years later and has been turned into countless movies, plays, and even cartoons. 

All this said, why do we still love it? Why has it become so much family tradition that every few years, new movies come out (who didn’t love the last version with Guy Pierce?) that we sit our kids down to watch Mickey Mouse and Goofy portray dead, starving, horrid characters? Because it’s just a damn good story, that’s why. Look past the psychobabble that might suggest there is a scrooge in all of us. That somewhere along the line, each of us has said something equivalent to – bah, humbug—and we were loved anyway. Or that the issues of the day translate to today’s political and economic climate if you squint just right. 

It’s because we love to love a bad guy. We love to hope that he isn’t that bad. Therefore, we can be justified in our adoration of what is a well-known turd. We love ghosts and spooky and dark themes, and a happy ending. We want the spirits to be scary and tell the bad guy we love that he’s being a turd, and if he doesn’t stop, he will be sorry. It’s got all the elements we crave. And that’s the long and short of why we adore this story, why we force it on our kids through Disney, and why we watch version after version of Ebenezer portrayed on the big screen again and again. 

That’s it. Is it a bit anticlimactic? Maybe. But regardless, we adore the darkness and lightness of it and will continue to do so for another two hundred years. So, as Tiny Tim said, God bless us, every one. 



Hanson, Molly. (December 2019). Ghost Stories of Christmas: A chilling Victorian Tradition. Retrieved from


 Broich, John  (Revised April 2021). The Real Reason Charles Dickens Wrote A Christmas Carol. Retrieved from


You may also like...