Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas: A supernatural season of mainstream belief


The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come
1843 John Leech illo.
The fog is thick in the graveyard, enveloping headstones and trees like a foreboding, gray Snuggie. The old man, tired and afraid - and still in his nightgown and cap after a long night of reminisces and travel – protests, pleads and negotiates with the silent escort clad in a black robe and hood. A lone phantasmal finger extends from the faceless escort and points to one particular, neglected grave with the man’s own name upon it.

“No, Spirit!” he cries. “Spirit, hear me! I am not the man I was.” Still, the finger points, as if signaling the old man to enter the grave he dug with his selfishness.

Of course the brief scene described above is from Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella, “A Christmas Carol.” The tale of a miser who meets with four ghosts - and picks up tips about living charitably from the inhuman entities of Christmases Past, Present and Yet-To-Come - so impacted society that it helped re-shape how Western culture celebrates the holiday with generosity, family gatherings, parties and lots of food and booze.

So move over, Halloween, because with all its ghosts and monsters Christmas is the better supernatural season.

Whereas October clearly revolves around the world of the unexplained and mysterious, it is largely just used as an excuse to play dress up and enjoy some cheap thrills. Children celebrate it and but are told the ghouls are just people in rubber masks; adults goof on common fears and superstitions with slutty/silly/scary costume parties or trips to haunted attractions.

Conversely, Christmas is a source of joy and jubilation. Belief is mainstream, and skepticism is actually considered crass (especially around kids). Even many of the most secular holiday celebrants admit to picking up on the ambient magic of the season populated with ghosts, spirits, cryptids, elves, psychics and sorcery. We even sing carols, along with Andy Williams, about December being the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” where we celebrate “scary ghost stories.”

In October, it’s spooky to think about a mindreading, time-and-space manipulating, ageless being with unlimited funds and elf minions who watches children and visits them while they sleep. But during December, Santa Claus is a comforting, kindly saint children are encouraged to talk to. He is friend to all children – as long as they behave and work hard to please the fat man, else they risk scorning the chimney-slipping bogeyman.

Not only is the film Miracle on 34th Street now part of Christmas folklore, but even news outlets break from regular coverage to track Kris Kringle. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has been tracking Santa’s journey on radar since 1955, and in 1897, The Sun - the now-defunct New York newspaper - ran an editorial telling 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon that yes, “there is a Santa Claus.”

Based on late nineteenth century stories, and seemingly supported by the NORAD Santa Tracker, we believe Claus lives on a hidden landmass in the icy waters of the Terrestrial North Pole in the Arctic Ocean. The exact location of Santa’s home isn’t known but a recent pop-culture contribution from a six-foot Elf suggests it is in close proximity to seven levels of a Candy Cane forest, near a sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and apparently not far from the Lincoln Tunnel.

There is also a strong belief in cryptozoological beasts during December. Santa himself runs with a legendary crew of supposedly immortal reindeer capable of flying, which have evolved in the North Pole. At least one mutated reindeer possesses a bio-luminescent red nose. According to a story by Robert L. May in 1939, and sung about by Gene Autry in 1949, the reindeer adaptation allows survival in the hidden landmass’ foggy Christmas Eves.

Each child who looks to the sky on Dec. 24 accepts the concepts that the evolution prevented the red-nosed beast from joining others in socializing behavior – or reindeer games, if you will. It was also discovered in the 1964 stop-motion animation TV special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that the mutated reindeer has socialized with a fellow cryptid, the Bumble, a yeti-like creature known as the Abominable Snow Monster of the North.

During Christmas, along with the hidden landmass in the North, which is like Atlantis but with a toy workshop, American society readily accepts the existence of another hidden city called Whoville. Talk begins anew each holiday season about the species of roast-beast eating Whos – discovered by the renowned Dr. Seuss in 1957 – who are terrorized by a green, cave-dwelling, bipedal humanoid with an enlarged heart who resides on Mt. Crumpit. The so-called “Grinch” domesticates dogs, and under the right circumstances, it possesses the physiological ability to grow its heart by two sizes.

A certain level of sorcery is also at play during Christmas, and the mainstream believes this as true. Snowmen are able to utilize potentially-possessed items such as a felt hat to come to life and sing to schoolchildren, and an angel can slip a man into a parallel dimension to show him a world where he doesn’t exist.

The list goes on of paranormal and unexplainable elements we choose to believe each Christmas season. Heck, we’ve even accepted within popular culture that Santa Claus can even survive on another planet and conquer Martians.

Christmas is a time when the unexplained is embraced in a very real way by mainstream society, and the unbelievable becomes the believable. Anything is possible, including ghost guides, mythological beasts and a gift-giving elf.

So you better be good for goodness sake – because he’s psychic and watching you right now, you know.


Mathew Perkins said...

I would love that costume does anyone knows where can I get one? That will be perfect for Christmas.