I’m sitting here on Christmas Eve sipping on a Diet Pepsi, enjoying the 75 degree sunny San Diego weather, and eagerly waiting for my wife to get home so we can begin our annual celebrations. I love Christmas, I love every garish candy cane holding elf, red nosed reindeer, fat suited Santa, and all the sappy pop songs. Being a life long atheist I often get questioned about my love of Christmas so in this blog I will quickly try to point out a few of the reasons why Christmas is easily my favorite holiday.
Christmas is easily the most magical holiday we celebrate. As a writer of Fantasy and a lover of History no other time of year even comes close. Nearly two thousand years(more if you count the adoption of pagan winter rites) of tradition and mythology combine with local customs to make up Christmas. Church annals mention the celebration as early as 354 AD or earlier. Medieval Christmas feasts often included the traditional boar and troupes of singing carolers, to this day a lot of carols sung have their origin in Medieval music. Customs such as the Yule Log, Christmas Tree, Gift Giving, most likely have even older origins in Northern European pagan winter solstice celebrations.
The mythology of Christmas is unequaled, at its center being the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. A Savior, born to a virgin in a destitute manger, hidden from a murderous tyrant. Visited by three wise men who followed a shining star to bring him gifts. The fact that this story survived close to two thousand years and is a testament to it’s magic. You can walk down most neighborhoods tonight and I guarantee you will see the above scene illuminated in plastic(The nativity scene was made popular in Europe by St. Francis of Asissi around the 10th century). The symbolism of winter, a savior born, of theevergreen fir tree pointing towards heaven is unmatched in any fantasy world building.
Most importantly our modern image of Christmas is based on a writers view of the holiday. Charles Dickens popularized Christmas and provided us with our current version. His books adapted Christmas from a religious feast into a personal holiday based around the family and captured the imagination of Victorian England leading to many of ideas we have about the celebration today.
Taking in all the history and mythology of this holiday makes me think about my own made up worlds. Holidays are such a big deal in our culture and practically dominated the Medieval world with the Churches calendar of feasts and celebrations, it would be safe to assume that my world-building should at least hint at some tradition. What do people celebrate, how do they celebrate, what are some of the symbols they use. Even our Christmas decorations have meaning, the colors red, green, and gold are representative of the blood of Christ, life, and the gifts of the wise men. Holidays and customs add layers to a created world and giving the tiny details a history cements them as plausible details that ring true.
In closing, I believe one can take inspiration from anywhere, especially fantastic Holidays with so much long standing custom and tradition.