Giving Thanks: How to Write Holidays

thanksgiving with the trolls

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

When I build a world, I think about all the minutiae that go into it. Do they celebrate Thanksgiving? Would they celebrate Christmas? Should they have a day of dressing up like Thanksgiving? Or is their Halloween the somber All Hallow’s Eve of days old? Here’s are some things you want to consider for developing a culture’s holy days.

on writing holidays 2
I am very much a world-builder. My head churns with new idea for inventive landscapes with new political structures inspired by things I’m half-qualified to comment on. Culture involves many things, such as music, art, and celebration. The word holiday comes from “holy day,” so ask yourself, “Which days would the people in my realm deem holy?”

In the continent I’ve created, there are seven gods. Well, seven beings with god-like creation powers. A week has seven days, so their high holidays last a week, one for each god. I’ve loosely interpreted all the god names to dedicate a day to them. For example, the Day of Carnage is dedicated to celebrating great military victories and sacrifices. I’m sure these loose definitions will get ironed in later stages of editing.

Even in our own world, most holidays have some religious connotations. Christmas is double religious, since it started out as a pagan thing which then got usurped into the Christian thing we know today, which is further getting taken over by secular ideas (I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, just leave me and my Nativity set alone). There are so many Jewish holidays that I know nothing about. The inspiration is everywhere and you just need to go out and get it.

on writing holidays 1I wanted to talk about religion before I went into history, since religion tends to be more international. Secular and historical holidays vary from country to country, continent to continent. There are, however, so many unique opportunities for inventing your own lore and dates that might be important to your characters.

In the United States, we’re celebrating Thanksgiving today. Being someone who could look into it a bit more, but won’t, I understand that this is a holidays commemorating something or other related to the pilgrims. The only experience I’ve had is that my family buys all the food and we sit and enjoy my neighbor’s company. And I eat all the food I can. Some families play football, others do appreciative things. Given the ambiguous origin story of a fairly popular feasting day, as a writer, you have the agency to take something mildly confusing and rewrite it to make sense to you and your characters. Does the feast commemorate the end of a famine? Did you have a portly ruler that declared the third Thursday in November to be a day of feasts? The possibilities are endless.

on writing holidays 3Anyone who knew me in middle school and early high school knows I’m a shit poet. But maybe you’re not! Maybe you have the talent to create songs and bard tales for the people in your world to sing in taverns and high court. Song is such an important part of most cultures, it’d be tragic to not even mention it.

I can’t speak for places that aren’t Poland or the United States, but almost all our holidays have to do with eating. But in other traditions, many holidays have to do with fasting. I’ve yet to explore those elements, but with a planned series of seven, there’s plenty of room to play around.

So, enjoy the holiday and let me know of some interesting fests and meals in the comments below! I hope you all get to relax from work for a bit.

on writing holidays sign off

2 thoughts on “Giving Thanks: How to Write Holidays

  1. World building is fun…I get especially distracted in museums. I start letting my imagination run wild and pick up a million different ideas from past civilizations that can inspire ideas for world-building. Sometimes I also kind of freeze up because there are so many options and decisions to make.


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