World Building: Holidays

My niece decorates a gingerbread house for Christmas. Perhaps in your world people decorate cookies for the holidays too!

Last time, I wrote about World Building it was in regards to food, but (at least in America) we are right in the middle of the holiday season, so I am going to continue this ideas with how you might deepen your world with holidays.

Once again, a lot of this will be in your author’s notes, but some of it will make it into the plot.

So the word holiday derives from the word holy day and is defined by Merriam Webster as “a day on which one is exempt from work; specifically : a day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.” This idea goes hand in hand with the idea of food since many holidays are also feasts or fasts.

So the question that the author might find useful is “What is holy?”

In Other Systems: the readers see references to birthdays being celebrated and a holiday called Landing Day. Landing Day is commemorated all over the Fleet and on Kipos. It is celebrated on March 29th, the day Jason Potolis landed on Kipos and called it a Garden of the Heavens. Though the story of Jason Potolis is fraught with religious connotations, this is considered a secular holiday. It is celebrated by the giving of small presents or photographs to loved ones and have large family meals. Now the reader never sees a Landing Day event, it is just referred to in the novel.  It adds a layer of depth without much description. In regards to characters if they choose or choose not to celebrate a holiday tells a bit of the type of person he or she is.

Rosemary raised Harden and Helen until they were fourteen and twelve respectively. She made them call Cole each year on his birthday, Landing Day, and New Year’s. She sent him yearly photographs, which seemed to be every few months to him. (Excerpt from page 12)

“…My folks have—or I guess I should say had—a ward. He’s twenty-four, but it doesn’t matter, he’s still my brother. Mom still buys him Landing Day presents and everything…” (Excerpt from page 438 Ben is speaking to Abby in a bar.)

Part of the Independence Day celebration in my house is a BBQ with cupcakes for dessert!

Also since none of the major characters in Other Systems are religious, we don’t see the Kyn holidays (at least not in the first novel). However there is a religious minority called the Kyn who  used to be the Jewish peoples, the Christians and Muslims. They celebrate the secular Kipos holidays as well as have their own celebrations mixed from the very best of their progenitors holidays. The reader will see more of this in the sequel: Other Systems: Kipos. 

Now sometimes it is good to show a holiday or two, because holidays are a way to show quiet moments while still having action and movement. In Faminelands, I speak of the Hunt as holiday. The Hunt is both treated as a holy week with celebration and is practical as well. It is the week that the Ladies, Lords and their Hunters leave the Village and come back with the last meat to keep the village through the Winter. It is a week where the apprentices don’t train per say but are allowed to work beside the Hunters. It is the first time many of the young people leave the village. The day they return is a Feast day.

However another of their feast days is Midwinter (Winter Solstice) and this is described by Brogan in the History of Lady Meadowlark:

“I have little concern for the holy day, other than the preparations for Aster’s security, as it is this time of year which Outsiders come and pay Our Ladies tribute.

Lady Aren missed him dearly, so Galdor went to House Sarralonde. He was either sequestered with his sisters or he took guard duty with his cousins, so we saw little of him. Lark was the only child in the House and a bit lonely, still her spirits began to rise. She began speaking to me at supper and she asked if she might help Roan and I mull the wine which we give to my servants. I was pleased to allow her.

On midwinter’s day, an hour before dawn, I heard the girl creep in. My first reaction was irritation that she had not learned to walk in silence yet. The second was that she dared come into my quarters uninvited. Then I realized, one of my Scouts must have talked her into some holiday prank. “Meadowlark, what in Talamh are you doing?” I growled. “You need sleep more then frivolities.”

Lark brought me what she held in her hands. It was three rolled up socks tied with one of her ribbons. It was not filled with a spiders or a snake. It was however incredibly soft wool and the perfect length for my boot. Lark had heard me complain that my old socks were mostly darning. It is my regret that I had nothing for her but harsh words. Still right before sunrise, I heard Lark sing the song to the Sun as is tradition.” (Excerpt from page 5)

Normally something like this would be in author notes–and if I am honest it originally was, but in this case it is important to the story because we see Lark getting bolder with her great uncle and Brogan softening towards the girl who now lives with him. (For people who have not read Faminelands, the reason there is three socks is because Brogan only has one leg–the other was lost in battle.) This is a simple moment, but the reader garners a lot about their culture by what is happening in these scenes. However, and I can not emphasize this enough, if you plan to show a holiday it must be integral to the plot somehow.

So Happy Holidays!


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