Tuesday, December 24, 2013

There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago!


Merry Christmas everyone!

Tonight's blog post is a celebration of Christmas Eve as it would have been celebrated in the early to mid 1800s. Telling ghost stories was a Christmas Eve tradition at that time. I learned this in the process of the Christmas card and story/poem exchange I planned this year.

I hadn't been aware of the ghost story tradition, aside from that part of the Andy Williams song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year".

There'll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories
Of Christmases long, long ago 

I learned a lot more in the process of this exchange.  While looking for a poem to share, I learned a new one. The title of the poem I chose is "Haunted Houses" and it was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I've read the poem to myself several times, because I like it so much. That and I wanted to analyze it. I'm wondering how I'd never read it before!

I also practiced cutting snowflakes for the exchange and learned some new designs, like this cobweb:

Yay! I did it!

Cutting these took a lot of practice! This tutorial and video helped:



You might want to stop and start the video as you try the steps. I decided to cut curves along the outside of my webs after I was done.

On to the Christmas Eve reading!

Longfellow wrote "Haunted Houses" in 1852 so it is in line with the time ghost stories were shared for Christmas. Perhaps someone even read this poem aloud to their friends and family on Christmas Eve long, long ago. I'm going to read it for you now. I made another recording like the one I posted for Halloween. Like last time, you'll only hear me. Come sit by the virtual fire and pretend that it's 1852. Help yourself to some roasted chestnuts and hot cider. I'm going to read you a little poetry!

video



For those who would like to read along with me, here is "Haunted Houses" in its entirety: 

 

Haunted Houses

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.

Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star
An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o'er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night,—

So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O'er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.

More of this year's snowflake designs

This poem taught me a new word - equipoise which basically means a balance.  So when Longfellow writes:

Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.
 
He means we find a balance in our lives between doing what's fun at the time and working towards a better future. That's how I interpret it anyway.

My little German Santa candy holder looking spooky

I love so many parts of this poem, but this is my favorite section:

The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

The stranger can't see or sense what the writer is describing - he only perceives "what is". While the writer is aware of everything past and present in that room. There are no "title-deeds" - We own a house as much as the previous owner does. Longfellow is saying that we are shared owners of our property even if we can't sense who else is there. I think this is a sweet sentiment, especially around Christmas. The ghosts of Christmas past are always with us. By the way, mortmain was another new word for me. It basically means a legal landowner. 

What do you think of this poem? Do you have any favorite parts? 

Santa Spider has a wish for you.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy 2014!
Haunted Houses

Haunted Houses

 
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.

Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star
An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o'er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night,—

So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O'er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.






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Haunted Houses

 
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.

Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star
An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o'er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night,—

So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O'er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.






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18 comments:

  1. I like the part of the poem that you like also, but I'm going to re-read the poem a few times. I find I have to do that especially with longer poetic pieces. I'd like to research more about ghosts and Christmas as well.

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    Replies
    1. Midnyte Reader ~ It's worth re-reading a few times! It's a little complicated as poems go, with the language and phrasing. I found it fun to read! I can picture the scenes he's describing while reading it.

      I was surprised to see some books about Christmas ghost stories online. They might be worth looking into!

      Merry Christmas!

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  2. I'll have to come back and read the poem later... got Xmas dinner to get ready! In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas, Justine!

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    Replies
    1. Insomniac's Attic ~ It's worth reading when you have the time. Then you'll probably want to read it over a second time! There's a lot to think about. Have a great dinner and Merry Christmas to you too!

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  3. I really enjoyed that reading! Thanks for including me! I feel very inspired now that I've been published :) I was thinking that Longfellow's poem would look great framed and hanging on the wall, and perhaps similar poems. Your snowflakes are looking good! I was thinking it might be cool to cut snowflakes or spider webs out of a T-shirt, another shirt could always be worn underneath.

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    Replies
    1. Matt ~ Thank you! :) Thanks also for participating! I had fun reading your poem. It's funny, you're the second person to mention framing "Haunted Houses". I think it would look nice in a frame too. "Haunted Houses" is an interesting choice to hang on the wall of a living space, if you consider the theme of the poem.

      I had fun cutting all those snowflakes! I was challenging myself to see how many different designs I could cut and how small I could go. I ended up with some that are about 1/2" wide! I could only get a few cuts into those because they're so difficult to hold while cutting. I think I've seen some spiderweb t-shirts like that on Pinterest, but I've never seen one with a cut out snowflake. That would be pretty cool!

      Merry Christmas!

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  4. Very cool post! I had no idea about the ghost-story telling Christmas Eve tradition. Merry Christmas, Justine! :)

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    Replies
    1. Marisa ~ Thank you! It's sometimes surprising to learn about old holiday traditions. I've learned about a lot of Christmas traditions through blogging, like Krampus, Belsnickel, Mummers, and now the ghost story tradition. I learned about La Befana yesterday from YouTube! You might be familiar with her, since she's a character of Italian folklore. Merry Christmas to you too! :)

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  5. I wonder if "scary ghost stories" and Krampus have anything in common? He seems pretty scary to me!
    I'm going to go re-read the poems too.
    Hope you've had a Merry Christmas!

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    Replies
    1. Lisa ~ Most pictures of Krampus I've seen are more scary than most ghost stories I've read! He's way more threatening than a ghost. I've never heard of a ghost beating someone with a stick or eating kids! :) That poem is worth a few reads. I think it has a lot of meaning. Thanks ~ I hope you had a Merry Christmas too!

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  6. I had no idea how much of Halloween spilled over, so to speak, into Yuletide. What a great post Justine.

    Merry Christmas and all the best in 2014!

    Ali

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    Replies
    1. Alison ~ Yeah! It's evidently been spilling over for some time! Looking back at history, I think there used to be more of a spooky aspect to Christmas than there is now. Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed this one. :)

      Merry Christmas and a happy 2014 to you too!

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  7. It's funny you should mention this poem because during October when Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab released their Halloween collection one of the perfumes were inspired by this very poem and was actually called 'Haunted Houses'. I was so very close to ordering myself a bottle because I really enjoyed reading the poem (and the label art was awesome) but I decided not to because there were no actual scent notes listed so I wasn't sure if I would like it or not! The Lab described it as 'Quiet, ineffective ghosts haunting the realm of mystery and night, stretching dusty hands back to homes and lifetimes unforgotten: pale gossamer musk swirling in thick, dense otherworldly vapors through cracks in dry wood and old, old stones.' I'm assuming it was a dusty woody scent! Here's the link to it if you want to check it out.. http://blackphoenixalchemylab.com/shop/halloween-2013/haunted-houses/

    I really enjoyed hearing you read the poem and I love the story about the tinsel and the spiders! So sweet!

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    Replies
    1. Ghostly Garden ~ No way! That's so cool. I'd thought of "Haunted Houses" as a random poem that hardly anyone was reading nowadays. Now I'm really curious about the scent. I took a look at the link you posted and it appears that the perfume is sold out. I would very much like to sample it, but I'm not sure I'd like to smell like something dusty and woody! Maybe it would make a person smell like a fireplace. That's the direction I would have gone with the fragrance anyway, because of the line:

      "The stranger at my fireside cannot see
      The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear"

      The poem conjures up homey smells in my mind. I'd like to think of the scent as more remembrances from the past than the dusty old remains of an ancient house. I certainly don't know what musk swirling through old wood and stones smells like! :)

      I'm glad that you enjoyed my reading of "Haunted Houses"! I thought the tinsel and spiderweb story was sweet too. It was that perfect mix of Christmas and spookiness.

      A Merry (belated) Christmas to you and a Happy 2014!

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  8. Lovely post! I loved the Christmas Spider story :) Very cute!

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  9. Heidi ~ Thank you! :) I'm going to have to tell the person who sent that spider story that it's been appreciated! I could picture the little spiders crawling all over the tree, checking out the ornaments. It's sweet. I hope you got my email about what you sent. That was a very cool surprise!

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