GETTING INTO THE CHRISTMAS “SPIRIT”
The following was an article published in The Times-Standard Holiday Entertainment Guide for 2010, as well as the Arcata Eye newspaper of Wednesday, December 15. Like a similar article that appeared last year, this essay explains the ghostly traditions behind the Christmas Season and announces our performance at Old Town Coffee & Chocolates on Saturday, December 18. The article was written by my human companion Bob Beideman. The editor of the Holiday Guide, Kali Cozyris, so enjoyed last year's essay that she held space open for our 2010 announcement!
Everyone knows that Christmas is a time of holly wreaths, mistletoe, caroling, tall trees with bright colored lights, presents and cards and family dinners and celebrations. What some may not know is that Christmas is also the time for gathering around the fireplace or living room and sharing a ghostly tale or two!
Jerome K. Jerome, the English author perhaps best known for his work “Three Men In A Boat” , was also a writer of macabre short stories. His collection “Told After Supper” contains several anecdotes specifically told after a Christmas Eve dinner, and as the narrator of the novella explains in the introduction:
“ Christmas Eve is the ghosts' great gala night. On Christmas Eve they hold their annual fete. On Christmas Eve everybody in Ghostland who IS anybody--or rather, speaking of ghosts, one should say, I suppose, every nobody who IS any nobody--comes out to show himself or herself, to see and to be seen, to promenade about and display their winding-sheets and grave-clothes to each other, to criticize one another's style, and sneer at one another's complexion…
Ghosts never come out on Christmas night itself, you may have noticed. Christmas Eve, we suspect, has been too much for them; they are not used to excitement…Ghosts with no position to maintain--mere middle-class ghosts--occasionally, I believe, do a little haunting on off-nights: on All-hallows Eve, and at Midsummer; and some will even run up for a mere local event… But these are the exceptions. As I have said, the average orthodox ghost does his one turn a year, on Christmas Eve, and is satisfied.”
As much as Halloween is celebrated in Europe, it is Christmas time that revelers choose to share a tale of spookiness, humorous or hair-raising; filled with ghouls, ghosts, goblins and other assorted denizens of the night. Perhaps it's because December has the longest night of the year in it; perhaps it's because the Winter season represents the end of life before the rebirth of Spring.
Wh atever the reason, it's no coincidence that that most famous Christmas story of all features four spectres: Marley, Christmas Past, Present and Future. Many English authors, including M. R. James and Charles Dickens, published books of ghost stories particularly to be read at Christmastime. And as late as 1963, the tradition was still alive in the United States, with that seasonal favorite, "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" , featuring the following verse:
"There'll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There'll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of
Christmases long, long ago…"
Fortunately, the tradition of dark merriment has been kept alive here on the North Coast, thanks to a spectral wanderer known to haunt the streets and alleyways of Humboldt County. Once again Carpathian the wandering storytelling spectre will be bringing his Holiday presentation to Old Town Coffee & Chocolates on Saturday, December 18, at 7:00 pm. This year's performance is titled THE WEATHER OUTSIDE IS FRIGHTFUL – Stories & Songs For A Spooky Holiday Celebration! and will once again feature special guest appearances by local artists Paul Woodland and Seabury Gould.
In addition to their silly and scary supernatural stories, the show will feature legends and folktales of the Christmas holiday, as well as unusual and rarely heard seasonal songs and music for an evening guaranteed to rouse the Christmas spirits in everyone…all pun intended.
Carpathian is a professional storyteller who has appeared at numerous venues, film festivals, Renaissance Faires, haunted attractions, libraries and conventions throughout the United States. He was a featured presence for ten years at The Six Flags America FRIGHT FEST in Largo, MD, leading his company The Patient Creatures. Carpathian was nominated in 2003 for a Rondo Hatton Award for Special Presentation and in 2002 for Outstanding Media Presentation for his CD, “3 Tales of Carpathian”. His stories run the gamut from classic campfire tales and spooky shaggy-dog stories to macabre fables and urban legends. He is equally at home before a mixed family audience, a midnight crowd of adult enthusiasts, or a gaggle of giggling children.
Paul Woodland is known as the Mad River Raconteur and Arcata's Garrison Keillor to the faithful listeners of his popular radio storytelling program “Once Upon a Tune” , heard every Saturday morning at 11:30 on KHSU 90.5 FM or on the internet at KHSU.org. Paul has been storytelling professionally at hospitals, schools, senior centers and national parks for over 16 years. His apprenticeship included dozens of classes, workshops and seminars under the tutelage of fabled storytellers Gay Ducy, Ed Stivender, Joel Ben Izzy and Ruth Stotter, and he gained valuable storytelling experience while working in Sonoma County as a park ranger, creating compelling campfire programs.
Seabury Gould is a storyteller, eclectic musician and recording artist, and of late lead on of Humboldt County's premier Celtic music ensembles Scatter The Mud. His storytelling CD "Times and Places" is a collection of traditional stories with musical accompaniment. Seabury has performed extensively at schools in California as well as in India. His repertoire offers stories for both children and adults and includes fairytales, Celtic stories, tales with humor, tales of enchantment and tales from various parts of the world. You can learn more about his interest and talents on his website www.seaburygould.com .
So gather your holiday cheer and join the Yule celebration at Old Town Coffee & Chocolates December 18. But bundle up warmly; some of the chills of that night may not be attributable to the weather outside!