World Building Tip: Holidays and Rituals

Photo credit: mine
So in the US, yesterday was Thanksgiving, and today is Black Friday, both of which include very different rituals that come about this time of year, every year. This weekend and onward, holiday decorations will go up—lights and ribbons and fake presents, etc. will twinkle around public places until they get taken down in January. Soon it’ll be Hanukkah, and Christmas, and Kwanzaa, and New Years Eve—all of which are celebrated in different ways with different traditions.

So, naturally, it got me thinking about world building. Because all of that right there? It’s world building IRL—and each celebration and way of celebrating completely depends on various people’s ethnicities, geography, religion and personal traditions.

For example, I’ve always lived in places with cold winters (with one minor exception of a year of school in the south, but even then my winter break was spent at home). My associations with Christmas, then, involve hoping for snow, hot drinks, evergreen trees, bundling up in winter coats and scarves, and wintry decorations. For most of my life, I celebrated Christmas with the Cuban side of my family, so we’d eat frijoles negros (black beans) and rice, pork, plantains, flan, and we’d finish off the night with cafĂ© con leche (Cuban coffee latte)—all alongside more traditional American sides and desserts (salad, casseroles, apple pie, etc.).

Those traditions and associations are based off a mix of factors: geography, religion, ethnicity, and nationality. And that’s just me.

While I don’t frequently see holidays mentioned outside of contemporary novels, I do think these kinds of traditions can be a fantastic way to add another layer to your world building regardless of the genre. Holidays and specifically the way we celebrate them are so incredibly varied—and sometimes this can be a really nice detail to add a little verisimilitude to your novel.

Have you considered this aspect of world building in your writing?

Twitter-sized bites:
Have you incorporated holidays and rituals into your world building? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)  
World building tip: what holidays and rituals does your story world have? #writetip (Click to tweet)

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