Creating Holidays in Fiction – Guest Post by Jaq D Hawkins…

In recent years, readers have been becoming more aware of international holidays. For example, the five days of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, occurred through 2-6 November this year. The commercial holidays I grew up with, Christmas, Easter, Halloween and for the Americans, Thanksgiving, have expanded greatly, though public holidays that actually get time off work have stayed much the same in their respective countries.

Add to this some special interest holidays, for example Aleister Crowley’s birthday on 12th October which has become commonly known as Crowleymass, and a certain feeling of special dates is expanded across more of the calendar.

So what about in the worlds of fiction? Some fiction depicts known holidays or variations from earlier times, like Yuletide in a lot of Fantasy novels, but others come with a completely fictionalised date and reason for existing. Some of these relate to our calendar, while others do not.

Fantasy genre in particular is rife with special dates. One of the more well known is Bilbo Baggins’ birthday on 22 September, (around September 12-14 of our calendar), in the year 2890 of the Third Age. This is close enough to build a fandom who celebrate around this date. Harry Potter gives the date 31st July for Harry’s birthday in the first chapter of the first book, a birthdate he shares with my own brother.

A lesser known special date occurs on Autumn’s Eve in the first book of The Godstalker Chronicles by P.C. Hodgell, The Feast of the Dead Gods. This is a night when all the dead gods ever worshipped come out and wander the streets while the local residents shut themselves up inside out of fear of some of the more dangerous gods; those who seek blood sacrifices as they were once offered. Working out the date for that one is as easy as looking at the calendar for the first day of Autumn, which in 2021 was 22 September (the Equinox), therefore The Feast of Dead Gods 2021 was 21 September.

Science Fiction is considerably less co-operative for working out specific dates. In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, the closest we are given for the date of the end of the world is “On a particular Thursday,” and Star Trek made the system of star dates deliberately obscure so that episodes could take place in any place or time as required by the script.

There are exceptions which often turn up as memes on social media, such as December 6th, 1984 given in Mad Max when society collapsed in that fictional world. The events of the original Blade Runner in November 2019 led to social media memes, and October 21, 2015 when Marty McFly travels to the future in Back to the Future indicates we’re all supposed to be riding on hoverboards.

In closer to real life fiction, any day of the calendar might become significant in the context of a story. Sadie Hawkins’ Day (November 13), for example, derives from a comic strip, Andy Capp. This is a day a woman can ask a man for a dance or a date, perhaps redundant in modern times. The Simpsons gave us Whacking Day (10th May), when snakes are beaten to death with clubs. For the record, I’m with Lisa on this and don’t approve.

What got me thinking about fictional holidays was a recent experience in real life. The short version is my youngest son and his wife had a baby. There were complications and the mother spent over two weeks in ICU with doctors thinking she wasn’t going to make it. My son, suddenly responsible for a newborn baby and going out of his mind with worry for his wife, needed family support. We moved him and the baby in with us temporarily so we could at least help out with the baby.

This story had a happy ending. The mother left the hospital on 2nd November and the little family went back to their own home to live happily ever after. Those who read Women’s Fiction and other feel good stories will see the outline for a good plot here.

In the UK we have a Grandparent’s Day on the second Sunday of October. The U.S. has one on the second Sunday of September. However, I declared 2nd November as Awesome Grandparents Day on Facebook, thereby making it official, and decreed that on this day, any grandparent who has had a hand in caring for a grandchild is entitled to a drink and a takeaway meal. The fact that this date coincides with the Mexican Day of the Dead is beside the point.

Being a writer, it immediately occurred to me that I can write this date into a story. Now obviously if every writer wrote their own personal significant dates into stories we would fill a calendar pretty quickly, however, with enough story development and exposure, such a date could catch on as yet another observance for our list of promotional dates.

After all, how are most of these observances like Secretary’s Day and National Black Cat Day initiated? Someone chooses a day and makes it known. So watch this space this time next year. I’ll be doing an International Awesome Grandparents Day promotion and with a little perseverance, I may even have a new book containing the date to feature.

Call it an experiment

Jaq D Hawkins

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