A Christmas Ghost Party for Christmas Eve: 1904

An Illustration for Dickens' Christmas Carol. The Ghost of Christmas Future.

An Illustration for Dickens’ Christmas Carol. The Ghost of Christmas Future.

A CHRISTMAS GHOST PARTY

FOR CHRISTMAS EVE

The veil that separates the realm of spirits from that of mortals has always been held by reverent tradition —not to say superstition—to be thinner on Christmas Eve than at any other time of the year. Ghosts are said to revisit their old haunts and homes; hence the Christmas custom of relating stories of spectral visitants.

A phantom reunion is therefore appropriate to the day.

The invitations may read:

The Shade of Miss Blank is requested to be present at a

Meeting of the Ghosts at

Apparition Assembly Cave

No Street

on the eve of the “Holy Night” at nine o’clock

It is requested that each fair phantom wear a winding-sheet

The walls of the room in which the spectres assemble should be hung with white cheese-cloth, and all lights screened with white paper shades lined with blue, etc give a more ghastly effect, to which burning alcohol containing a pinch of salt will contribute.

The ghosts arrive, draped in sheets, with pillow-cases about their heads, wearing white masks and gloves. At the appearance of each female phantom the hostess says “Sh-h-h!” which all the guests repeat, but upon the arrival of a man spirit a dolorous groan is his welcome, and is taken up by the rest of the company. They move noiselessly about the room, never speaking above a sepulchral whisper. If a “graveyard” cough can be managed at intervals, the effect will be appreciated.

Each apparition must wear a distinctive mark on his or her forehead—a splash of blood-red paint, a bone attached to the top of the mask, the picture of a spade, a skull—anything gruesome. With these they are solemnly invested as they pass from the dressing-room, and a card, with pencil attached, is given to each.

They are expected to guess one another’s identity, in spite of all efforts to foil detection, and the names are to be noted on the card, accompanied by his or her special mark by way of signature.

At the sound of a bell slowly and solemnly tolled the guests add their signatures to their cards, which they then drop into a box draped with black.

If, in placing the cards within it, a slight electric shock could be delivered from a small hidden battery, the uncanny effect would be emphasised.

The one whose card bears the greatest number of correct guesses may have a prize, and another be presented to the one who has best concealed his identity.

An occasional waltz is danced to the slowest possible accompaniment of muffled music, but square dances are most appropriate if walked through with the solemn stateliness befitting the ideal ghost.

A bell is slowly tolled to announce supper, served at eleven o’clock or before, on plain white dishes, the table decorated with white flowers. The menu may keep to ghostly white consisting of clam bouillon or creamed oysters, chicken salad, sandwiches, angel cake, kisses, vanilla ice-cream, peppermints, and other white bonbons.

The guests unmask at supper, return to human, fleshly habitations, and are as merry as they please.

To be so absorbed in frolic as to ignore entirely the great event commemorated on the “holy night” would be to carry fun too far.

Upon returning to the drawing-room (from which all suggestions of gruesomeness are removed) after supper, the lights may be turned down, and after the solemn tolling of midnight a voice from an unseen singer may thrill the auditors with the stirring notes of Adam’s “Cantique de Noel,” which seem to be the very utterance of the herald-angel. Or Gounod’s “Messe Solennelle” on piano or organ would be most impressive, and with its triumphant proclamation would make an effective climax. In and Out Door Games: With Suggestions for Entertainments, Florence Kingsland (Mrs. Burton Kingsland.) 1904

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: While Mrs Kingland was a widely-published etiquette author, Mrs Daffodil wonders at her recommending such a lugubrious entertainment, which seems designed for some penitential purpose rather than for holiday pleasure.  She certainly seems anxious not to “carry fun too far.” Perhaps this was a party got up for a young ladies’ Sunday School class or a Temperance Society. Chapel-goers would certainly indignantly repudiate any dashed French “Messe,” no matter how “Solenelle.”

Then there is the matter of the burning alcohol and the electric shocks, which are more often associated with Halloween and the19th-century American fondness for painful practical jokes.

Mrs Daffodil suggests that the effective climax of a well-regulated British Christmas Eve is a Service of Lessons and Carols, followed by a selection of ghost stories told in the Provost’s rooms, accompanied by sherry and biscuits.

Since today is St. Nicholas’ Day, you might enjoy this post on the cribs of the Infant Jesus written last year for the Haunted Ohio blog.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a holiday feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.

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One thought on “A Christmas Ghost Party for Christmas Eve: 1904

  1. Pingback: The Christmas Tree Dance: 1921 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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