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Seasonal Horror Traditions and Reflecting on Fear
This paper focuses on UK and US traditions of seasonal horror at Christmas and Halloween to consider how they provide opportunities for reflection on the causes of fear at liminal times in the calendar. These liminal times contain numerous traditions dedicated to looking back and forward, such as end of year reviews, or addresses from heads of state to the ‘family’ of the nation in which they consider the past year and look hopefully to the future. As part of these traditions, the seasonal horror story, whether delivered as an oral tradition, published, or broadcast, offers a clear opportunity to engage with causes of unease and fear. At the same time, it allows these fears to be diminished as they are treated as ‘just entertainment’, and traditional forms of the seasonal horror story are recreated as nostalgic pastiche or given a comedy treatment. Even here, these more-lighthearted renditions can allow audiences to engage with and work through issues that concern them in ways similar to those stories intended to cause fear, even if the fear itself is softened. Examples of such issues that have been dealt with through seasonal horror include disconnection from society in A Christmas Carol, the power of grief in The Woman in Black, or the power of the media in Ghostwatch or of technological change in Black Mirror’s Christmas episode ‘White Christmas’. Utilising these and other examples, this paper will outline the significance of narratives of fear as part of traditions of reflection at particular seasons.