How to Worldbuild a Unique Holiday
One of the most common worldbuilding questions you may run into is how to build a unique holiday. Whether it be D&D worldbuilding, fantasy worldbuilding for your novel, or worldbuilding for a novel, coming up with unique holidays is a great way to make your world feel alive and immersive. Here are a few tips on how to create your own unique holiday.
1. Know What the Holiday Recognizes
According to Dictionary.com, the official definition for a holiday is, “a day fixed by law or custom on which ordinary business is suspended in commemoration of some event or in honor of some person.” This definition alone can help guide you into determining what the holiday should recognize.
In fantasy settings, this may be the founding of a kingdom, recognizing a great victory, or even something as simple as celebrating the beginning or end of the harvest. You may find that your world has different holidays based on social class. For example, peasants may celebrate harvest feasts while those who dwell in a city don’t.
You can also turn to deities for inspiration. If your world follows a specific religious sect, then they may be a few holidays associated with them. Dungeons and Dragons, for example, has plenty of D&D gods. Over at D&DBeyond, you can find tons of Dungeons and Dragons gods and goddesses that list their respective holidays. You don’t necessarily have to incorporate their holidays either. You can create brand new ones!
Once you understand what the holiday is going to recognize, then you can start detailing the holiday out. This leads us to determining the rituals practiced during the holiday.
2. Plan Out Rituals
For some of the most common holidays in our modern world, we do things like exchange presents, put up pine trees and decorate them, go to the homes of strangers and ask for candy, and exchange sweets and bad poetry to those we love. Those are some pretty odd rituals if you think about it.
Yet they’re so commonplace that we feel odd or left out if we don’t participate in them.
The next step to designing your own DnD holiday or other unique holiday is determining what your people do on the holiday. A holiday that celebrates a battle, for example, may require your players to light candles or visit the site of the battle. Perhaps there’s a tourney that’s held in honor of the battle.
Perhaps you have a more lavish holiday where there are masquerades and all of the mysterious and naughty antics that go along with masked events.
If you want to make your holiday more adventurous, then perhaps you want to include an element of danger. Maybe no one celebrates the holiday. Perhaps it’s a day or night to fear. Perhaps legendary monsters take to the streets on such a day. Or ghosts come to ensnare living bodies back to their graves.
Planning out what your players and those within your world do on your holiday makes it just that much more real. It can truly immerse your characters in the world as well.
3. Distinguish Class
As with anything, if you truly want to make your world realistic and immersive, then you have to figure out how your holiday interacts with different class societies. Strictly speaking, the rich and poor likely celebrate the holiday in different ways. While the rich may be able to spend coin on lavish costumes or buying expensive candles, the poor can’t.
This means that you need to plan out two separate spheres. In some cases, they may overlap. That doesn’t mean they get along, however. The rich, if they’re snobbish, may bar the poor from celebrating the holiday in the same way that they do. Perhaps they require the poor to sit further away from them. Perhaps the poor have to take part in the service at a separate, less convenient, time.
Or perhaps the opposite is true. Perhaps the holiday celebrates the poor and encourages the rich to support them. Maybe the two classes even switch! The rich till the fields while the poor enjoy fine meals and soft beds inside of their mansions.
Adding this extra level of detail can make your holiday feel entrenched in society and in your player’s minds.
4. Determine When to Set Your Holiday
Finally, you need to think about when to set your holiday. Is it a holiday that’s celebrated in the summer, fall, winter, or spring? Certain holidays, like harvest festivals, likely make more sense in the months in which change is happening in the seasons. Others, those that celebrate a battle or a particular hero, can be placed whenever.
One thing to consider is if you want the holidays to mimic real life. For example, do you want a fantasy-based holiday that takes place around the time Christmas does in your real life? For tabletop gamers, this can be a fun way to celebrate the holidays both in real life and as their characters in your world.
It can also be a useful way to keep track of time.
Along with choosing when, you need to consider if work is going to be continued or closed down in recognition of the holiday. This could impact your players if they want to buy or sell or use the city’s services. They may find themselves forced to take part in the traditions whether they want to or not.
At long last, you should also think about the environment. If you want your holiday to feature a tourney, then it wouldn’t make sense to have the holiday set in winter. Unless, of course, you’re thinking about starting up some winter tourney sports. In which case, we’re definitely in.
Mark Your Calendar!
Answering the above questions can set you up for creating a unique holiday for your DND campaign, game, or novel. Let us know what holidays you come up with and what rituals the people in your world perform to celebrate it!