Holidays are unique periods of time that separate the year into meaningful events, and there are an unlimited number of ways to observe and celebrate. For example, I’m not religious, yet I celebrate Christmas as a way to recenter around ideals of love, light, hope, and grace. It’s a time of giving and guessing, family and friends, old traditions and new escapades. Though it can be expensive at times, I find that I am always content to turn on the Christmas tree lights and to watch someone open a gift I picked out for them.
These kinds of celebrations are important to consider when writing a novel, especially if the story passes through the seasons. Many cultures have different holy days or festivals to commemorate the turning of the year or significant events (whether those are personal or historical). Both life experiences and research into foreign celebrations can provide rich writing material, and contemplating the celebrations taking place in a story can help a writer tune in to the culture and the people they are writing about.
I’m currently reading a series by Kim Harrison, and I’ve noticed that she always mentions the solstice and Christmas celebrations when they come around in her timeline. As her series expands through thirteen books and several years, these iconic events help the reader keep pace with the life of the characters. Celebrations can also be handy settings in which to stage conflicts, as people are gathering who would usually not share the same space; they can take advantage of a potentially captive audience or they can use the festivities to cover up activity.
In real life and writing, the holidays and break from routine can be golden opportunities, as change is introduced even while traditions are maintained and the passing of the year is definitely marked. As a writer, I’ve found that these small brushstrokes in a work can help pull together a narrative in a particularly cohesive and realistic way. These events are touchstones with which we can all identify even as the unique details add color, depth, and intrigue.
As a way to engage with my characters, I am going to work on a narrative sketch where a festive celebration is highlighted within the context of Roots of Ash. Perhaps it will be done in time for a New Year’s Gift to all the blog readers.
Until then, happy holidays readers, and thanks for your support throughout the past year!