Holidays & Traditions in World Building

Today is February 2nd. You know what that means. Groundhog Day!

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Every year, my husband is so excited to get to rewatch the cult classic movie. That’s our Groundhog Day tradition. Maybe one year we’ll actually go to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to experience the day in style and in person.

Anyway, let’s be honest that this is a bit of a weird holiday/tradition. We listen to a large, though extremely adorable, rodent to see if we get more winter. Living in Texas where it’s already creeping into the 80s by February, I have to say, the significance is even less impactful. 

And it got me to thinking as a writer. It seems every culture is going to have unusual holidays/traditions that might seem weird from the outside. Even from the inside.

Writing contemporary romance, I think that means doing my research on any culture I’m including. In fact, I think of the research as fun. An opportunity to try to go experience some of those traditions when I can, or, at the very least, have my mind and heart opened to new ideas. It also means incorporating those traditions or holidays that are ones I don’t practice myself with as much sensitivity as possible.

As a paranormal romance writer, that means possibly creating my own unusual holidays and traditions that my characters might celebrate. What if my big, bad dragon shifters had a day when smaller animal shifters helped predict something important to them?Obviously, I wouldn’t just randomly stick a tradition in a story. I’d give it some history of its own and a particular meaning to or impact on the story.

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For example, if you look at the history of Groundhog Day, you’ll find it didn’t just arbitrarily happen. 

According to the history channel, Feb 2nd falls midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and was a significant day in several ancient and modern traditions.

As Christianity spread through Europe, the day evolved into Candlemas, a feast commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the holy temple in Jerusalem. In certain parts of Europe, Christians believed that a sunny Candlemas meant another 40 days of cold and snow.

Germans developed their own take on the legend, pronouncing the day sunny only if badgers and other small animals glimpsed their own shadows. When German immigrants settled Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, they brought the custom with them, choosing the native groundhog as the annual forecaster.

It makes more sense if you look at it from that angle. And, when you incorporate it into a story–like the movie Groundhog Day–it makes the story that much more special. 

This is something I’ll have to consider more as I incorporate world building into all my books–contemporary, paranormal, or whatever.  But I’m already starting to think if there’s something I can do in my current WIPs–in paranormal that would be Fire’s Edge #3, and in contemporary my 5th and final Hills of Texas book. You’ll have to wait and see what I think up!

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