H is for Holy Days – Worldbuilding Religions

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Holy days might be considered some of the best things about being religious. Even now, in countries that have moved past established state religions, they are still a vital part of culture and society.

You probably celebrate one or more of them as well, but in this era we’re more likely to call them holidays.

Holy days are a fairly easy concept, and they can even be frequent (such as the Sabbath in Judaism. This is a weekly holy day.) There are many religions and cultures around the world who have holy days on a monthly basis, as well. These may be in relation to some natural events (like the new moon or full moon) or something that repeats on the same day.

And then, there can also be high holy days. This is a term used more frequently in Judaism and Christianity, but high holy days are, essentially, the holidays commemorating events significant to a religion either historically (such as Passover, which commemorates the Jewish people’s escape from slavery in Egypt) or to bring awareness to a spiritual state of being. To use the Jewish holy days as reference again, an example would be Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when the Jewish people fast, pray, and repent, so their names will be written in the Book of Life.

If, as part of your religion worldbuilding, you are also creating a society that is theocratic in nature, then you’ll need to consider what these holy days might mean for members of that society who do not adhere to that religion. Observance of some holy days may be mandatory for all citizens, regardless of belief, such as the Sabbath was in ancient Israel. Other holy days may be restricted only to adherents of a religion.

The rituals that can accompany holy days, and the reasons for them, are wide and varied, and I will delve into that aspect in more detail in the book later this fall.

Worldbuilding Exercises

  1. Brainstorm some ideas for holy days based on what you know (so far) of your fictional religions and cultures. Ideally, generate a list of at least 10-15 ideas, then go back select the top 3-5 that you feel the most interested in. You might also make one or two of them be an observance of a historical event.
  2. Of those 3-5 holy days you’ve chosen, figure out their frequency. If you do weekly (or your world’s equivalent), you should select no more than two. You have a little more variables if you go monthly, seasonal, and/or annual for others as well.
  3. For each of those holidays, jot down how they are observed. Do they require a period of rest? Fasting? Prayer or sacrifices?

Leave a comment below if you have any questions! Thanks for stopping by!

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