Party like it’s Durin’s Day: Imaginary Celebrations in Fantasy

Well, it’s the last day of me, Cait Reynolds, playing “king of the hill” on Kristen’s blog. In honor of this fact, I’d like to begin today’s post by listing out the top five reasons Kristen could be denied re-entry into the United States.

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1. US Customs does not allow you to bring foreign livestock into the country. Kristen coming back counts as Lamb from New Zealand.

2. Kristen mentioned she was suffering from allergies due to pine pollen in New Zealand. This probably counts as smuggling in biological warfare agents.

3. Kristen did not get to see any hobbits. This will trigger a secondary scan of her passport because who doesn’t go to New Zealand and SEE HOBBITS??? Shady AF, if you ask me.

4. The TSA might interpret Kristen’s attempt at the haka as threatening government officials. Or deeply disturbing. Maybe both.

5. Finally, Kristen is coming back full of ideas. This is CLEARLY a threat to national security and must be neutralized immediately. In other words, by sending her back to (some really remote part of) New Zealand where her ideas can’t do much harm.

Maybe I’m just not ready to give this blog back to her. At the very least, you’ll still get to see me on Squatter’s Rights Wednesdays and in my classes. And who knows? Maybe Kristen will travel again (i.e. PLEASE SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD, INVITE KRISTEN TO VISIT!).

To round off my brief stint of world domination, er, substitute blogging, I give you Kim Alexander, here to talk to us about more stuff and things…but mostly stuff.

Frosting, the Snowman…er…Frosty…

Last week we talked about the power of imaginary books – books that characters in novels talk about and read, but don’t really exist.

These imaginary books are a great way to comment on the action taking place in your actual plot, along with a good place to lay down a thick, velvety layer of exposition. So let’s spend some time thinking about imaginary holidays, another excellent place to evenly spread your exposition, taking care that it doesn’t drip down the sides. (I may be watching a lot of the Great British Bakeoff and I’m deeply concerned about a soggy bottom…aren’t we all?)

Only 123 days ‘til Festivus!

Because you’re a person who lives in this world/dimension, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. Festivus, of course, is the invented holiday ‘celebrated’ by George Costanza’s family (and my family, and maybe yours) originally seen on Seinfeld. If I’m honest, though, we enjoy the Sharing of the Grievances all the year ‘round! (It’s December 23rd this year, get the pole ready.)

Invented holidays can come early in your drafts – that is to say, you can decide to throw a party without having all the details of the reason for the party mapped out. That said, eventually you’ll have to answer some questions about secular vs. religious events and what that means for the story at large.

At this point, I suppose it must be said that all holidays are imaginary, in that someone, somewhere thought them up and told their buddies they had a great idea for a day off.

Let’s look at Christmas, for instance. Leaving aside the question of whether or not it’s a state-sponsored consumerist event or a solemn religious occasion, we all know a lot of things associated with Christmas. How much are just things we talk and sing about because we always have? (In the interest of full disclosure, I am a secular Jew who has been collecting glass tree ornaments for many years and LIVES for the day we bring our tree home. Life is a rich tapestry!)

Santa is an elf, right (let’s ignore the whole bit about being a saint for the moment)? But he’s also normal person-sized. And he comes down the chimney. And flying reindeer. And the colors red and green. And turkey, even though we just had it a month prior. Why? Why do we drag trees into our houses? Why would anyone bring myrrh to a manger? What is myrrh? (A few minutes of googling should answer those questions, and also point you in the direction of the sorts of questions you’ll need to ask yourself.)

So if you take a step back and look at Christmas through the lens of writing a fantasy world, you can see it takes up a huge amount of space not only on the calendar (I saw my first ad this week, deep in the lurid heart of August) but in our emotional lives. We all have to make a decision on how to react to the holiday season: celebrate, ignore, mock, love, hate. Even if we consciously avoid it, it’s still making a mark on our behavior. Obviously, your fantasy holiday doesn’t have to have the enormous resonance of the triumvirate of terror that make up Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s, but if you’re bothering to create it, make it have some impact. (I did not include Chanukah because it is awesome and includes fire.)

Caturnalia (hey, it could work!)

Okay, so you’re having a party. It’s in the draft and written on a post-it note. Now it’s time to take a step back and ask what sort of event it will be. This is your chance to shine a light on your created culture and bounce your characters against each other, which is where the fun happens.

Leeloo and Onion would like to propose the holiday of “Caturnalia.” It involves tuna.

What gets your society together? Did they win a war or crown a ruler? Is it a religious event, or is your society a secular one? (Remember that a society is rarely a monoculture while you’re making these decisions.) What about your party? Is it a solemn occasion, or an excuse to drink and dance? Maybe they celebrate writing a song, or the color blue, or cats. (That sounds like a pretty good idea, actually.) You get to dress your characters up and send them to parties, and they either live it up or bitch about being forced to attend – or both.

In my book The Sand Prince, the human world celebrates something called The Quarter Moons Party (they have two moons.) It’s a combination of Independence Day and New Year’s Eve, and it celebrates a great victory and the continued safety of their home city of Mistra. Victory over whom? No one really remembers, and the songs they sing only vaguely allude to ‘locking The Door.’ Everyone wears white and there are special treats you only get once a year. Why? It’s always been that way.

The demons of Eriis who live on the other side of that Door remember it very differently, and when one of them visits the human world, he takes great offense at all the celebration. (He’ll probably appreciate the open bar, though.) Like everything else, an invented holiday is really just another way to explore your characters reactions to each other and to the world around them.

So whether you celebrate Durin’s Day, or First Contact Day, or save up your grievances for Festivus, or are writing up the grocery list for the Labor Day cookout, have a safe and happy one!

About Kim Alexander

Kim Alexander lives in Washington DC where she writes epic fantasy and paranormal romance.  These days she divides her time between writing, rooftop gardening and waiting on her cats.

?Her earlier incarnation co-producing Sirius XM Book Radio gave her a look inside the heads of hundreds of best selling authors, and she’s ready to pass on what she learned.


For the month of AUGUST, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).



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  1. The haka was created (as I understand it) as a way for warriors to work themselves up for a fight (not to mention scare the shit out of the enemy). If they don’t let Kristen back in, I’ll dance the damn haka for them.

    1. I heard that Jason Momoa did the Haka as his audition reel for Khal Drogo. Although he is a treasure, I’d pay a dollar to see your version, Ellen.

    • Barbie Riccardelli on August 25, 2017 at 10:05 am
    • Reply

    That’s some funny s###, Cait. I really enjoy a great sense of humor. Kodos to Kristen for having you fill in for her.

  2. I am glad I am not the only one who questions whether Kristen is going to be stopped at the border. And that Hobbit thing? Definitely shady.

    Did she at least see the glowworm cave? If not, I think we have to consider the possibility that maybe OUR Kristen went over there and was jumped by an alien at some point. Whatever crosses the border home is wearing her as a meat suit (and really, no surprise it chose her–I mean I’d pick a stylish meat suit too, given the choice).

  3. By Durin’s beard that was a great post:-)
    Nice thoughts on holidays in a fantasy world. I already have one, but could use another one.
    P.S. TMI concerning Kristen in New Zealand. Remember, what happens in Hobbiton stays in Hobbiton. 🙂

    1. Thank you Ernesto! No such thing as too many imaginary holidays.

  4. I hadn’t even considered adding a fictional holiday to my work – thank you!

    1. You’re welcome! I enjoy throwing my characters into situations thinking they know what they’re in for, and the structure of a holiday of some sort works well.

  5. I have so many fictional holidays in my world that I had to create a separate file to keep them straight. Now, actually adding them to my stories? That takes a whole other level of skilled. I just got dinged on a critique of one of my novel chapters that it went into too much detail about the holiday — as though the whole chapter was just an excuse to tell the readers about this cool holiday. Hm… good call: guilty as charged. Heading back for rewrites….

  6. A top post Cait! You’ve done a grand job holding down the fort! And here is one more ‘Lamb’ story for ya: when your gorgeous Kristen first stepped off the plane in our dear little ole NZ – what did she see? I’ll tell ya honey; on her way thru the airport concourse to customs, an enormous billboard sign announced, ‘All you can eat – A Lamb Roast Dinner – for $22-00’! We love our lamb roast dinners here; no surprise there. And now we love Kristen Lamb too. She was entertaining. She was generous with her time. She was kind. What a gorgeous soul she has. And the knowledge she shared has inspired me to kick back into gear with my SM platform; I’ve been in procrastination mode. The RWNZ17 Conference held in Rotorua (which is ‘a must see’ top tourist destination) was a memorable one! Thanks for coming on down here Kristen. We loved having you and CC – two tiny gals from Texas – both leaving lasting positive impressions of Texas and Texan women!

  7. Thanks for highlighting this! It’s something that’s been on my horizon since I studied Margaret Mahy’s The Tricksters at uni (Lord Trowelly’s Elevation, anyone?).
    Plus I’m currently working toward the final stages of publishing a novel named after one of its own celebrations: Restoration Day.
    P.S. If the U.S. Border Control won’t let Kristen back in, we’re happy to keep her – there’s always room for another Lamb!

  8. You have kept us laughing yet informed during Kristen’s absence. Thanks for stepping in to keep things lively.

  9. You mentioned imaginary books – just thinking, the best case there is when you (or someone) goes ahead to write them, like Philip Jose Farmer writing ‘Venus on the Half Shell’ after Kurt Vonnegut’s Kilgore Trout stories.

I LOVE hearing your thoughts!

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