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Monday, December 19, 2016

A New, Old, Winter Storytelling Tradition With A Library Display Opportunity

The weekend after Thanksgiving I went back to my old neighborhood in Chicago to do some holiday shopping and stopped in at Volumes Bookcafe.

While I was there I found a beautiful series of paperback, spooky stories on display.  Below is a picture of the front of the three I purchased and a shot of the back of the Burrage title.

You can zoom in to read the back, but basically, these titles have been produced to revive the Victorian tradition of families getting together to read ghost stories aloud on Christmas Eve. 

I did some more research on this topic and found this interesting article that explains the tradition in more detail. It turns out that the tradition hit it’s heyday in Victorian Times, but probably dates back before that. As the article also notes, while much of our current holiday season traditions are remarkably similar to those from Victorian times, this one specific tradition has all but disappeared.

The winter, with it’s long nights, led to spookier thoughts and more forced togetherness huddled inside, around the fire. Ghost stories made for popular entertainment in these circumstances. But Christmas Eve in particular, when large groups were assembled already, grew to be the most popular time to read ghost stories aloud. 

As I mentioned above, I did purchase three titles in this series and our family plans to spend a few evenings over the days off this holiday season to read these stories together, aloud, around our 21st Century fire place. No screens or other distractions involved. 

While I hope some of you out there give the old tradition a try, I think it is a great display option for all libraries. Any spooky story will do. And, it is not Christmas specific. A spooky story for a long winter’s night works no matter where you live, regardless of whether you celebrate a holiday during this season or not. It is a display you can do now, to take advantage of the time people have off of work and school over the next 2 weeks or wait for the new year.

Let’s bring this tradition back through the public library.

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