TT: Do You Decorate?

Do you decorate for the holidays?

Jingles and his Sleigh

Jingles and his Sleigh

Jim and I do, pretty extensively.  This year, because we have a nine month-old kitten who thinks anything unattached is meant for her to knock over, we are skipping a tree, even though most of our ornaments are unbreakable.  (My starting to put up my own tree and getting my first cat coincided within a few months.)  Still, I bet Persephone could discover ways to break them.  She has a gift.

If you’re curious about some of Jim and my holiday traditions, you might enjoy going back to my Wandering for 12-22-10.  This year, we’re doing many of the same things.  I don’t have a new Christmas stocking to make, so instead I’m crafting handmade ornaments for some of the beloved people in my life.

Thinking about how much these seasonal rituals mean to me started me thinking about how few SF and Fantasy books feature seasonal celebrations.  By this I don’t mean books set at Christmas time.  (We had a great discussion of these last year: see WW 12-21-11.)  I mean books where seasonal celebrations are featured.

There are some, of course.  Joan Vinge’s Winter Queen and Summer Queen (science fiction, by the way, rather than fantasy, as the titles and cover art might lead you to expect) use the concept of seasonal transitions to great effect.  I suppose Biblo’s Birthday party in The Fellowship of the Ring could be considered a sort of seasonal celebration, especially since the people of Hobbiton have come to expect a party every year.

As a writer, I know how hard it is to weave in these elements without being accused of slowing down the story.  I try where I can – there are passing references to some holidays in the Firekeeper books.  Lani, the young child who is a character in Thirteen Orphans and the other books in the “Breaking the Wall” books, created an excuse to give birthday parties at least a passing mention.  Birthdays are also important in Fire Season, my recent collaboration with David Weber.

Yet, sadly, I don’t get to work in these sort of celebrations as often as I would like. I do feel the loss.  I know when my character’s birthdays are, but the reader rarely gets to find that out.

Humans like commemorations.  They like seasonal repetition.  They like odd quirks of date that somehow seem significant.

Shall I point out that today is 12-12-12?  Why not?  I bet I’m not the only one doing it!

The current fuss over the impending Mayan “end of the world” (actually merely an end of a calender cycle), shows this very human tendency again.

But, unless the seasonal celebration is the reason for the book, these rarely get included.  Yet preparation for those celebrations – whether a religious or  semi-religious feast, or a purely personal one – take up a lot of time and energy in our daily lives.   I believe they probably have done so, going all the way back to when solemn Babylonian priests used the stars to predict the best time to plant or Egyptians awaited the innundation of the Nile.

A world seems a little thin without seasonal celebrations, birthday parties, anniversaries, and other such excuses to mark the changing of the year or the evolution of a life.

My world is full of them.  My siblings and I still commemorate each others birthdays (and those of our mom and the various kids).  Jim and I have joked we have our own seasons: “the season when Jane leaves shoes all over the house,” “winds,” “gardening season,” “open windows,” and, of course, the holiday season.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I’d better wander off and get a couple sticks of butter out of the freezer so I can start making cookies.  We always give cookies to our neighbors and a few special friends.  Christmas time wouldn’t seem “right” if we didn’t!

May your rituals be bright!

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5 Responses to “TT: Do You Decorate?”

  1. Heteromeles Says:

    As George Takei said, “today is National Sound Check Day. “1-2, 1-2, 1-2.” Hope the set goes well after that.

    He also suggested that we should engrave “12/21/3012” in all sorts of enigmatic places, so that people a thousand years from now can have something to enjoy freaking out about. Maybe we can make it a tradition?

  2. Louis Robinson Says:

    Misty Lackey does a pretty good job of integrating festivities, at least at times. Usually as part of her ‘lonely/troubled/misfit youngster settling in’ sequence. Of course, given her style, for much of a book there isn’t any sustained activity to slow down. The events of a particular day, or a few consecutive days, serve to advance the story, That day can as easily be a festival day as a work day for many purposes, so they appear regularly.

    Festivals also often highlight the most distinctive aspects of a culture, so prep for and participation in one is a logical framework for introducing characters [and readers] to a new society. And you don’t even need to appeal to coincidence very often – the very arrival of visitors or return of long-absent family and friends is usually enough to justify at least minor festivities.

  3. Tom MacCarrol Says:

    One odd one, from Steve Stirling’s “Change” series- every year, on the day things went sideways; they hold a festival- with games and craft fairs-at the height of which they attempt to set off a charge of gunpowder…to see if things have changed *back*, while nobody noticed.

  4. janelindskold Says:

    Thanks for the added examples — good ones!

  5. Paul Says:

    What was the one on classic “Star Trek”?
    “Carnival!! Carnival!!” …

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