It was a carnival on the ice. From skating and sledding, to bear-baiting and puppet plays; from horse and coach races to gaming, gambling and lustier pleasures, there was something for everyone. Children went on donkey rides and men could have business cards made by printers who dragged their presses out onto the ice among the shop-tents that lined the frozen river. It was so cold that tree trunks split and merchants kept warm by lighting fires in their tents. It was the Frost Fair of 1788 on the Thames River in London, and it is where you will meet several of the ghosts of Ravencrest… in the flesh.
With the release of the omnibus edition of The Ghosts of Ravencrest: Darker Shadows just before Halloween, we realized that All Hallows’ Eve isn’t the only time rife with ghosts. Christmas is absolutely lousy with spirits, the most famous being Dickens’ Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future.
It’s no wonder, really. Christmas arrives in the dead of winter, as the old year is about die. It’s a single bright spot in a frozen wasteland. Nature sleeps. Plants and trees have lost their leaves and we value evergreens as signs of life and hope that once again, the earth will be reborn. There’s no green grass, nor wheat in the field. The days are short, the nights, long. By morning, hearths grow dark and cold, as do souls.
Christmas, in all its gaiety, with its songs and bright ornaments and feasts; with its candles and good cheer, is a light in the darkness. It tells us to have hope; it reminds us we are alive. But in the dead of winter, it does not totally assuage the fear that spring will not come, that plants will not resurrect.
In old England, Father Christmas came to visit and festivities went on for twelve days, culminating in January with Twelfth Night, where the Lord of Misrule reigned and sometimes servants traded places with gentry. The parties went on and on, lest winter invade and remind everyone that this is the true season of death. It had to be gotten through with as little loss as possible; it was too cold to dig graves so bodies were stacked, frozen, awaiting the spring thaw. You did not want to die, so you celerated life with the force of Christmas and Twelfth Night.
No celebration could quite wipe away the fear of winter. The fear of death. People gathered around fireplaces to tell the stories of the ghosts walking the halls and moors, always aware that they might one day walk with them.
In Ravencrest Manor, ghosts stories were whispered, often fearfully, because in 1788, the mansion was 300 years old and already held more than its share of lost souls. In the next special installment of The Ghosts of Ravencrest: A Ravencrest Christmas, you’ll come face to face with people you’ve already met as spirits, and you’ll discover clues to the mystery that is growing around Ravencrest’s new governess, Belinda Moorland.
A Ravencrest Christmas will be available in early December. Meanwhile, the third installment of our tale, The Ghosts of Ravencrest: Darker Shadows, is available at Amazon. This is an omnibus edition that also includes the first two installments, The New Governess and Awakening as well as the previously unreleased third installment, Darker Shadows, for the special low price of $2.99.