Holidays help provide us with important breaks, excuses to party, to meet up with old friends and family as well as offering times of reflection and peace. More so, the mid-winter season is a special time since it’s the time of year where a host of different holidays combine to create a juggernaut of a holiday season. I enjoy diving down into the histories, traditions and folklore surrounding it. From the ancient party of Saturnalia, to the Irish horse skulls of Mari Lwyd to the more modern Kwanzaa, it’s always a fun ride.
This year, it got me thinking about fantasy worldbuilding and the importance of festivals and holidays in a game world for a gamemaster. In table top roleplaying, holidays can often be treated as throw-away events for a game, typically being used as a backdrop for a one-shot game. However, I think holidays and festivals can serve the campaign, and a game’s host, by providing more depth to the game world with not only the build up towards a holiday but the holiday itself.
If, as the game host, you already have a calendar for your world then your set. If you don’t have a calendar it’s not necessary but it does help to give the players a sense of time. In the game world, the cycle of annual holidays can help a community or society to understand the flow of the year. Holidays, festivals and feasts are like sign posts letting communities plan a planting season, a harvest season, special moments of import to be celebrated, etc.
Though I’m mainly going to talk about a fantasy setting this can serve just as well in science fiction as well. We are going to look at five components to review for inspiration in crafting a holiday for your game; Culture, Survival, Celestial Events, and Themes. At the end of the post, I’ll present a sample holiday made up with these components.