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Thursday, October 31, 2013

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? Whats up with a Yule log, anyway?
Theres only one way to find out: Research. Dig into the customs and cultures of another time and youll discover a wealth of opportunity to expand your imagined world.
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 summers 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 dont 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. Youll at once draw readers in because of the familiar elements, but also enrich your characters lives and world with unique touches.

You could even take a tradition like Scotlands Hogmany, otherwise known as New Years 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 homes 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?

Dont 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 faeries 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, its a world building dream. Its 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 Ill 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 thats where the Halloween tradition came from.

You dont have to limit your world building to traditional holidays. Sporting events can enhance your plot. Im 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 didnt 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 well 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 thats your favorite? Think youll 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.

You can find her on:
Stop on by and chat sometime!



Tameri Etherton said...

Thank you, FF&P for inviting me to hang out here today. I hope everyone has a Merry Samhain and a Happy Halloween!

Gayle Carline said...

Hell hounds, riding across the autumn sky, huh? Now I know what to do with my two caniacs tonight.

These are such great ideas, you make me want to write fantasy!

Marcia said...

Excellent post, Tameri! I don't write in these genres but I love your ideas. with a little thought, writers of other genres can adapt your ideas to their stories. I know I'm going to give a go.

Emma Meade said...

Great post, Tameri. Halloween is probably my favourite day and night of the year. Whatever you get up to, enjoy it.

Janet Tait said...

Great post! My background is Scottish, so I loved your Hogmanay idea!

Tameri Etherton said...

Thanks Gayle! You don't have to write fantasy to warp holidays, you know. I'm sure you could change the hell hounds to horses. That would be wild! Maybe for your next book? I say yes.

Enjoy the madness with your wild caniacs. You know you love them. :)

Tameri Etherton said...

Marcia, with historical fiction, you could totally re-imagine holidays! There is a wealth of opportunity for you to mine, go for it! Have fun writing and tweaking those special days.

Tameri Etherton said...

Thanks Emma! Mine, too. I decorate almost as much at Halloween as I do Christmas. There's just something fun in making the house all spooky-ooky. I hope you've enjoyed your Halloween immensely. You know what I'll be watching tonight!

Tameri Etherton said...

I didn't know you were Scottish! You could do some wild things with Hogmany. Write it! Write it now! I need to read it.