In my younger years, Christmas horror stories were always ones I avoided, no particular interest in them. As an example, in reading a Thomas Ligotti anthology years ago, there was a story whose title suggested Christmas (I looked it up – The Christmas Eves of Aunt Elise). As is my habit with short story collections, I skip around, choosing the next story based on how interesting the titles sound, and I am sure I left this one for last. However, it turned out to be a fulfilling, provocative read. While Christmas was the setting and backdrop of Ligotti’s story, not the primary source of the particular horror, it did add a principal element in its oppressive atmosphere and motive of the characters.
This exception to the rule notwithstanding, and not taking a lesson learned, my bias can be best explained by the story-line most commonly associated with Christmas horror- Krampus. In truth, I had never heard of this specific character until recently, unaware this specific folklore dedicated to a malevolent anti-Santa figure existed so widely- a product of my Christmas story indifference perhaps. The Krampus construct fits my preconception of Yuletide inspired horror where the spirit of Christmas is threatened by a menacing presence which must be exorcised lest the holiday (and all we’good’ souls who celebrate it) suffer. Now that I write it, I see it as the basic plot of the Grinch— a seasonal confection viewed enough times as a child to permanently fuse into my subconscious.
My lack of enthusiasm for this narrative comes from its absence of moral dilemma. The good and evil characters are so pre-defined they are not bothered to be introduced, and to reduce even further, the definitions of good and evil are also negligently assumed. Most simply stated, these story’s conflict can be explained as a status quo has been upturned and must be corrected back to the way it was… a reflexive presumption that any change should be resisted. But why? This most conservative of ideas, like an angry railing of some crotchety old man, is where the return to the good old days is both the ideal and the justification in of of itself… an adolescent argument of just because… Not the side of the philosophic side of the tracks I normally choose to reside. It is much more rewarding to question why the status quo should be defended, or if, maybe with some benign neglect, there may be an elegant opportunity for something better to replace the old. What would it be for the sacred cow of Christmas to fall? To my tastes, this is a more interesting and challenging imaginary universe.
Of course, Krampus is not all Christmas horror, and there is an place for Krampus in literature/entertainment, no accounting for my specific tastes. However, in opposition to this trope I have written a few short stories where Christmas itself is the horror, rather than a damsel in distress. Hopefully, my fiction blurs the line of morality and expectation, as well as confronts the possibility our Yuletide traditions (at least to some) may be stale and even vulgar. Could Christmas be a Trojan Horse, a veneer of light and merriment, with sinister intent festering inside? Or perhaps it is some Lovecraftian behemoth devoid of purpose, nobly ignorant to how it is mistakenly interpreted by we lesser, unimaginative creatures.
In this unfrozen Christmas ground, I plan on writing more of these short stories based more on questions than answers, eventually publishing together in a collection. For now, one of my Christmas themed stories, SIX BEASTS A FLAYING, which can be found in the horror magazine Devolution Z (December 2015, Vol 5), is about a vindictive Yuletide spirit lashing out to protect its own tired, burnt out land that holds nothing worthy of defending. Also, I have posted a free story NICHOLAS’ LIGHT (Smashwords, Barnes&Noble, Itunes, Amazon) which begs the question of Christmas’ ultimate destination in its disturbing progression of its celebrants—a wonder of children, then an obligation of adults, and finally a forlorn pining for the past of the elderly-a wholesome innocence never to be relived.
Please see below link for free download of my Christmas short story if anyone is interested. Always remember, Christmas is other people.
Free download of Nicholas’ Light (a Christmas Short Horror Story)