Posted on 25 December 2009

Even a mediocre fictional world has some traditions and concepts in it.  They may be ways of saying hello, ways to mourn the dead, or ways to celebrate the seasons.  They could be religious rites or secular party customs.  And, for an author, one of the greatest moments is when those traditions jump off the page into the real world.

Wednesday, on the day before Christmas Eve, I attended a Festivus party (for the rest of us!).  For those unfamiliar with Festivus, it was an invention of the father of a writer for Seinfeld and made itself into an episode of the show.  The traditions are simple, with the entire explanation fitting on side of a piece of paper.  That aside, it was a fun excuse for a party.  Of course, a keg of beer and winter in general are good reasons for parties, but, well, yeah.

Other traditions have jumped off pages.  From the wonderful charity work of, with their Novices, Accepted, and Aes Sedai, to fictional swears and catechisms.  Heavens know that I say Gorram a lot since watching Firefly, and a goodly number of people use Frack of BSG fame.  There are people out there that will even have weddings themed on a book’s traditions.  Wowza!

But, what makes the tradition jump off the page like that?  Some of the great stories have very little off-page life, while some middling but still known stories have far more popularity.  Well, honestly, I have no clue cause I’m not a Humanities-type scientist, but I will say that I think it more has to do with the symbolism of the tradition or the ease of employing it.  For swearing, Gorram and Frack roll off the tongue easy.  For a Wheel of Time wedding, well, the costuming described is actually pretty awesome and the deeper meaning that was implied in the few marriage ceremonies we saw in the book were extremely heartfelt.

And to Festivus?  Well, it was simple, and the meaning was, while silly, strong.  It was a “secular holiday” (a wonderful oxymoron, in truth).  An acknowledgement that you don’t have to believe in invisible sky-people to still want to have some cheer in the dreary cold of winter, which, in my opinion, is what the midwinter celebrations are all about.  So, put up an aluminum pole and air some grievances!

And to the rest of you, a Merry holiday season.

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