Enrich Your World With Re-imagined Holidays
by Tameri Etherton
Ah, Halloween. That time of year when little ghosts and goblins roam the streets looking for candy. Have you ever wondered what prompted kids to dress up in costumes for treats? I have. And why do we decorate eggs on Easter? What’s up with a Yule log, anyway?
Take Halloween, for instance. The roots of our modern holiday can be traced back two thousand years to an October 31st Gaelic festival called Samhain (pronounced Sah-win). The festival was a celebration of summer’s end and the harvest. It was also one heck of a party. Bonfires were lit to mimic the sun, in hopes it would hold back the decay and darkness of winter. Or, perhaps something a little more sinister.
On Samhain night, the dark god Herne the Hunter would ride across the Autumn sky with his red-eyed hell hounds on a supernatural hunt.
I don’t know about you, but that gives me chills. Just think of how you could include something like that in your novel. Take a bit of history and tweak it to fit your own story. You’ll at once draw readers in because of the familiar elements, but also enrich your character’s lives and world with unique touches.
You could even take a tradition like Scotland’s Hogmany, otherwise known as New Year’s Eve and give it a paranormal twist. Whereas Christmas is peaceful and a time for quiet reflection, Hogmany is a raucous, joyous affair. Once midnight strikes, the partying quiets until the first visitor arrives. The tradition of First-Footing says that the person who crosses the home’s threshold first will be the predictor of good fortune in the year ahead.
What if that first person was a vampire? Or a serial killer? Or a faerie?
Don’t be afraid to mix and match holiday traditions!
Legend has it that on both Samhain and Beltane, the door between our world and that of the faerie’s is thinner, making it easier for spirits and faeries to enter our world. What if dark fae were to pass through unnoticed while humans were frolicking around their bonfires?
Speaking of Beltane and frolicking… if your novel needs a bit of spicing up, this is an excellent holiday to play off of. Sex, fertility, gods and goddess, a battle between light and dark, it’s a world building dream. It’s a night where fevered passions and virgins are sacrificed to the lord of the hunt. Imagine the conflict that might arise from a mis-matched pairing.
Want something even spicier? Believe it or not, in the Czech Republic women are whipped or spanked on Easter Monday. Why? Because they believe the spankings will keep them healthy and beautiful for the whole next year.
Hey, whatever works! But I think I’ll stick to beauty creams, thankyouverymuch.
Also at Easter, but a little less erotic, in Finland, Sweden, and Denmark children decorate eggs for Easter and then dress up as witches, going door to door collecting candy.
Sound familiar? Perhaps that’s where the Halloween tradition came from.
You don’t have to limit your world building to traditional holidays. Sporting events can enhance your plot. I’m a huge fan of the Olympics, especially the winter games. In my fantasy novel I knew I wanted to have an Olympic-like event, but didn’t want the games to feel too modern. My research led me to the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Back in the day the Thames would freeze over and they played a sort of hockey game and also nine-pins, which is similar to modern day bowling. All of the games, including these two, were competitions with winners receiving prizes from the Queen.
With this information, I made up several sports that would fit into an epic fantasy, but that modern readers would understand.
The more we can relate our worlds to what the reader knows, the better we’ll draw them into the story, making it a place they want to venture in forever.
Have you played off of holidays in your novels? Is there a particular holiday or tradition that’s your favorite? Think you’ll find a way to incorporate a little corporeal punishment into your next Easter celebration?
Bio for Tameri Etherton ~
Tameri Etherton writes stories about kick ass heroines and the rogues who steal their hearts. While not writing, or researching for her latest book, she can be found in tea shops laughing with friends, reading books, or at home curled up on the couch watching movies with her family. She lives in a quaint little seaside village, and enjoys strolling on the beach with her own prince charming.