Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Writing Prompt: Make Up Your Own Holiday

U.S. Army Celebrating Asian Pacific Heritage MonthMonday, March 26 is “National Make Up Your Own Holiday” day.

(This is another one of those oddball ‘national’ days that has no basis in fact. It’s supposed to be supported by the “Wellness Permission League” of which I can find no verifiable data on the intranet. Although, I did find this self-typed news story which mentions the League.)

Sometimes it’s an easy thing to create a holiday: in ancient Rome, conquering generals arrived back at the gates and were often rewarded with a day of celebration in their honor. No brainer.

When you’re creating a holiday as part of world building in your story, it may not be so easy (unless some general arrives at the city gates…)

Keep in mind: Not all holidays are a cause for celebration. They may be a cause for mourning. Others may be celebrated differently in different places. St. Patrick’s Day is a case in point: in the U.S. celebrants eat Irish Food, drink green beer and party. In Ireland, St. Patrick’s day for some is a solemn affair made up of church-going and prayer.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  1. Consider the reason for your holiday. Is it based on a military event? A national movement? A religious miracle? What time of year did the event take place? Was the ensuing event a local one? Does it remain so, or has it grown? What is the history of the celebration?
  2. How is the holiday celebrated? A reenactment of the original event? (Fireworks on July 4th) A religious service or blessing? Do celebrants wear anything special to celebrate? (Green on St. Pat’s.) Are traditional foods eaten? (Hamantashen) Prayers said? (Novenas) Parades held? (Ticker tape for welcoming home.) Are there any special props needed to celebrate, or which show observance? (Decorations.)
  3. Does the holiday include any human or animal sacrifice? (Disclaimer! We’re making up a fictional holiday here, not practicing it. Do not sacrifice any humans or animals in the creation of your holiday, please.)

    Sacrifice has long been associated with celebrations. We keep the symbolism of sacrifice in our modern celebrations: burning candles, giving something up (Lent), donating money or time, etc.

    Does your holiday include any other kind of sacrifice?

  4. Is the celebration held inside a building, or outside in the open air? (Time of year will likely have something to do with this choice.)
  5. Are there special symbols, writings, speeches, holy books, etc.
  6. What is the exact date of the holiday? Is it the date the event happened, or the birth date (or death date) of a principal participant? Perhaps it’s the date the event was thought to occur (if the celebration comes into being years or decades after the ensuing event.)
  7. What governing faction decided there would be a holiday? Why? What gives them the right to declare it such?
  8. Are there people who don’t celebrate this holiday? Why not? What happens to those people (if anything) if they choose not to participate?

Good luck!

Photo Credit: The U.S. Army – West Point Asian Pacific American Observance Celebration. These guys look like they’re having a blast!