Christmas questions

Question One: This has come up often enough that I figured I’d ask: how do you interpret this line from the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year:

“There’ll be scary ghost stories
and tales of the glories
of Christmases long-long ago.”

I figured the “scary ghost stories” was a reference to A Christmas Carol, which social message aside is very much a ghost story.  But a few people in the last few weeks have said something like “What do ghost stories have to do with Christmas?” How do you guys interpret that line?

2) I felt very proud of myself when I realized Weird Al Yankovic’s “Christmas At Ground Zero” is an inversion of the chords of “A Holly Jolly Christmas.”  Is that something everyone already knew, and I’m totally late to the party?

My Patient Husband tells me Weird Al’s explanation for that song was that his record label asked him for a Christmas tune. “I don’t think that’s what they expected,” added Mr. Yankovic.

3) Am I the only one who doesn’t feel like “advent” until the majority of the Christmas preparation is done? I know the real preparation for Christmas should be spiritual, but the physical preparations (sending cards, planning and getting gifts, mailing them) overwhelm me. I don’t even want to hear Christmas songs until most of that is out of the way. It feels as if everyone else looks forward to Christmas music on the radio in early November and can’t get enough of it. Am I really the only one?


  1. MysteryNurse

    I guess I always just assumed that there was some old tradition of telling stories around the Yule log. But I have no idea whether I’m right!

    How about the marshmallows – do people really toast marshmallows at Christmas?

    1. philangelus

      I’ve never toasted marshmallows, but it makes sense if people are burning wood they might think of doing it. Personally, I hate toasted marshmallows, so that would make it the least wonderful time of the year for me. 😉

      1. MysteryNurse

        True. Though I always think of roasting chestnuts over the fire at Christmas (still, I’ve only done that once, and I’ve roasted marshmallows lots of times). We have a gas fire place and Christmas is too cold in Minnesota to want to light a fire in the yard, so our Yule log is the dessert version.

        Telling stories, both scary and funny, is something I associate with gathering around a fire, too. Maybe that’s all it is: the human impulse to gather around the hearth and talk, amplified by Christmas’s chilliness and large ceremonial log and extra visitors and alcohol and staying up extra late.

        1. MysteryNurse

          Oh, also, what better time to tell scary stories than when the nights are longest?

  2. diinzumo

    AFAIK, telling ghost stories around the fire was a Christmas tradition during Victorian times. It’s said to have inspired Charles Dickens to write “A Christmas Carol.” Trying to find a citation for it, though.

    Never toasted marshmallows specifically at Christmas. It was usually whenever we had a good campfire going. Having the fixings for s’mores didn’t hurt.

  3. Cricket

    I don’t feel Christmassy until the all of the following:


    Christmas gift chart (yes, we have a chart — from across the top, to down the side, with many cryptic footnotes).

    Duty gifts bought. Mostly gift certificates and books, which can be shuffled or kept for birthdays. If we see something we think is perfect, we can get it, but if we don’t we aren’t worried.

    Tree up and decorated.

    Wrapped a few presents.

    House clean enough. Room to fit a plate or two on the coffee table without fear of the remotes being pushed off, confident bills are up to date, no grossness in the bathrooms. I can’t relax and enjoy if it’s waiting for me.

    Carols on the radio, but only when the rest is done. Otherwise it’s annoying.


  4. ShadowyLibrarian

    When I was a kid, I was always puzzled by one scene from the Albert Finney version of A Christmas Carol, where Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past watch a wagon full of children in costumes riding and singing carols in the snowy woods. When I asked my parents why the kids were in costume, I was told that in the UK, some traditions (like attending costume parties and telling ghost stories) that Americans would associate with Halloween, were done at Christmas there.

  5. Pat

    Ditto the others – telling ghost stories at Christmas was traditional in England. A book of Christmas stories I have illustrates this with a quote from “The Turn of the Screw” – “The story had held us, around the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as on Christmas Eve in an old house a strange tale should essentially be . . . ”

    BTW, Dickens wrote several other Christmas ghost stories as well, but none were nearly as successful as the first. For good reason – most of them aren’t really very good.

    I agree about when I feel “Christmas-y,” but I don’t listen to carols on the radio. I was reminded of why when I went shopping with my younger daughter the other day and two different places had the same “all Christmas” radio station playing. I guess if you have to play Christmas music all day you can’t be too picky, but we heard some of the worst junk! My family has at least a dozen Christmas albums, so who needs the radio?

    (Recommendation: a wonderful little gem by the Hampton String Quartet called “What if Mozart Wrote ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’?”)

    1. MysteryNurse

      Ah, maybe that is where I got my vague idea that it was a tradition: I read The Turn of the Screw once in college (not *for* college, but I remember I was in college at the time)..

  6. Marie

    I try to stick to Advent music before Christmas, although I might be stricter about that if we were actually home during the Christmas season to listen to Christmas music then.

  7. Cricket

    Several Native American tribes can only tell stories during the winter. I think it’s between first snow and first rain. Otherwise, the animals will stop and listen rather than get ready for winter.