Hello, and happy First Friday! Can you believe the year is already half over? If time flies when you’re having fun, then we must be having a blast! This time last year we chatted about what freedom means to us and how the topic figures (or not!) in our novels. Fun, right? This time A Drift of Quills is talking about fictional holidays and celebrations we use in our novels. It’s good to rule.
I love the depth of creation behind world-building: the nitty-gritty, the if-this-then-that, the marriage of reality to imagination, the glimpses into the author’s head. Adding holidays to a setting is a wonderful way to increase the dimension of our worlds, to help readers feel connected to the stories. Holidays (or days of observance) are uniquely human celebrations. In speculative fiction we have the freedom to broaden the baseline with other intelligent species. Elves don’t celebrate the same things humans do, ogres may not celebrate anything traditional at all, and fauns have another party book entirely. Still, the motivations for these observances are rooted in the same things:
- Changes within the world (seasons and natural cycles)
- Religious beliefs
- Important people and events
They help us — and our fictional people — to remember. They give us things to look forward to that are outside of our everyday lives. They help us connect with friends and family and foster important social ties.
In Tales of Tairenth, in Sherakai’s homeland, there is the Festival of the Ancestors.
A six-day period with the summer solstice at its center. On this longest day of the year the wards between the spiritual and physical worlds are thinnest. At this time — usually at dawn or at twilight — one can communicate with the dead. During the days before the festival begins and continuing throughout, families and loved ones tend burial grounds, cleaning and straightening, painting and decorating. Ribbons colored saffron (the color of mourning) flutter from gate posts at the burial grounds as well as from the lintels of homes. Holes are often carved into the woodwork, or ornate hoops attached to hold the fabric. Garlands and bouquets of the gold and red Sunset Cup flower are frequently used in tandem with the ribbons. A tea made from the dried bulbs of the flower increases the ability see the spirits, and if the bulbs are burned the smoke may reveal them. Candles, the flames representative of the flower, are scented and burned during the entire festival.
The holiday is one of fasting or light meals meant only for sustaining the body. Priests and priestesses of Bahenn, the goddess of death, paint their faces gold bisected by black from forehead to chin. In exchange for small “gifts” they will speak to the dead for those unable or unwilling to do so themselves.
How does it affect Sherakai? It is during this time that his “teacher” presents a certain test. Will Sherakai pass or fail? Either way, what will the consequences be?
In the meantime, the story continues to grow and unfold. I am delighted to be taking part in a writing challenge that is helping me get a little speed on this epic tale. I am hoping to be finished with the first draft by the end of next month and pushing for a winter release. I’d keep my fingers crossed, but it makes typing difficult. Cross your fingers for me! Send out those good vibes and feed the muses!
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Author of Oathtaker
I so enjoy the use of holidays and celebrations in fantasy tales. The festive environment adds an interesting aspect to the world created. I’ve seen such events used as backdrops when close personal relationships are formed, or as a means for hiding the dastardly deeds in which some parties engage. Having said that, I’ve not used any holidays myself, though I did reference a “spring festival” in Oathtaker: Book One of The Oathtaker Series. To date, the closest I’ve come to a special event was “the feed” in Select: Book Two of The Oathtaker Series (coming soon!) . . . (Read more!)
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Author of the short story, Sanguis Dei and a poetry collection, Light and Dark
Kristie is on “Hawaii time” while she assembles a shiny new computer. (She’s really excited about that!). “In the islands that means we get to it when we get to it, bro.” She plans to join us again next month!
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Does your fantasy culture have any holidays or special celebrations?
Do you remember any holidays or festivals from books you’ve read?