Sometimes we all need a reason to celebrate. Holidays break up a mundane existence and force us to consider things we may take for granted the rest of the year. Every culture has them and they can tell you a lot about the values of that society. Creating holidays for your D&D campaign will make the world feel more authentic, give players a sense of life outside the dungeons and open up the potential for some really great social encounters. Here are some tips for creating your own celebrations, holidays and festivals.
Find the Core Idea
All holidays start somewhere and that’s where you can start building one. Consider agricultural and celestial events or significant events in the history of the land or religion. American Thanksgiving is a good example. After a very worrying period for the new colonists they managed to have a successful harvest. To celebrate they gather around with the friends and family who made it possible and enjoy the product of that harvest. A very simple idea, but it makes sense.
Now Drift From It
We still have a big Thanksgiving feast, but we have many new traditions. The president pardons a turkey. There is a big Thanksgiving football game. The day after has become its own special day of shopping. These things have nothing to do with the harvest or the original idea of Thanksgiving, but are important rituals anyway. Don’t even get me started on the bizzarre blend of customs surrounding Easter.
The point is that holidays are always in flux. They grow, change and are pilfered by other cultures and made over. We can’t quite trace back why we do some of these things, but they have been introduced slowly enough that it seems normal. Lets say you have a local holiday in your campaign world that celebrates the slaying a dragon long ago. I imagine that would include dragon effigy that children beat on. But how about on that day the girls give buttercups to the boys they like? It has nothing to do with the dragon, it just crept in over time. Holidays usually don’t make sense, a little randomness can make yours seem more authentic.
Introduce a Bit of Magic
Many holidays have a supernatural element. Santa travels the whole world in one night. The dead walk the earth again for a single day. The advantage of working in a fantasy medium is those things can be true in your world! The day of a celebration might not be arbitrary, but tied to a real magical event in the world!
The Festival of Webs – A drow holiday that commemorates the first time Lolth spun a web. The entire community works together to create a massive, colorful cloth web which is then put forth as an offering to Lolth. The day also features contests of climbing and magic. At the end of the festival all of the eligible drow males are pursued in a race by the females. If a woman catches a man he is at her mercy the rest of the evening.
Arbadon – A comet appears in the sky every five years. Its appearance is said to awaken divination powers in the leader of each town. Each person may ask him or her one question about the future and have it answered. After receiving their answer, the asker is instructed to plant a tree. If the seed grows strong than their vision will come to pass. If it is weak or dies then the answer was false.
The Hunt – A rural human holiday which spans two days. The first day is marked by a massive hunt of the local animals to replenish food stores. On the second day the hunters take the first taste of the meat they have collected in a ritual to channel the animal’s spirit. They then disguise themselves as an animal and show their respect for the killed beast by imitating the normal habits of creature they slew. It later became custom to exchange gifts wrapped in animal skins at the end of the second day.
Does your campaign world have any special celebrations? Tell us about it in the comments!