Creating Cultures and Celebrations

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Today is Australia Day and over the past few weeks there has been a range of advertisements about celebrating the day in your own way and that there is no right way to celebrate the day. They are meant to encourage you to embrace your own culture and history to create the celebration that best suits. The catchcry of the series of advertisements was “what does it mean to you?”

These adverts got me thinking about the different cultures and different celebrations and the realisation that for my novel there are many aspects of culture to consider. Not just in fantasy and science fiction writing but for any world you create, culture will have an impact.

Given the day I am just focusing today on celebrations. For there are so many aspects of any culture to consider that it could possibly fill a book, this article is a good starting point.

What we celebrate as well as how we celebrate tells a lot about our culture and our beliefs. Having an understanding of what is beneath our celebrations or milestones and what would be important to your world and those in it can greatly enrich your writing.

 

Start by asking yourself some questions and brainstorming from there:

What could be turned into a celebration that isn’t in your own culture/world?

It would depend on your world as to what that might be. Examples could be harvest time, becoming a man, first kill, change of seasons, first rains, new moon.

 

What do we celebrate that could become unmarked by a culture?

In most cultures the naming of a child is celebrated. Perhpas you have created a world where children were predetermined and already named before arrival. A celebration or ceremony would not be needed. What other aspects of a culture would change the way people interact by it not being celebrated?

 

How could a special day be marked differently?

Quiet reflection instead of parties or by the wearing of a particular colour or costume.

 

Religious holidays and celebrations and ceremonies?

Could you take several and mix them together, what aspects of different religions could you apply to your own (fantasy) one? Or even the reason why some things are celebrated and not others. Jehovah Witnesses for example, only celebrate wedding anniversaries, not Christmas, not birthdays, the basis for such (that they are not prescribed in their religous text – the bible) and it may be that you could apply a similar set of rules to different events.

 

The questions above could be a starting point if you are unsure around some aspects of your culture. Thinking of the celebration first and then the reasons behind it you will be able to strengthen the world you are creating.

Not everyone, even in your created world, will do things the same way and that is going to be due to a range of reasons:

  • Different class
  • Different upbringing
  • Different religions

Celebrations are only a small part of this.

What aspect of the culture you have created was influenced by something you do in your own?

 

Image of Livre du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio, 14th century. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, Département des manuscrits, Français

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