Welcome to Part 17-2 of my World Building blog series :D I’ll be covering just about every topic I can think of that goes into world crafting. If you have any topics you’d like me to write about, please let me know :)
Now that you have the basics of your religions set up you can figure out some more details. Consider religious holidays. They’re ingrained in our societies and they can be factored into your fantasy ones too.
Holidays don’t have to be a huge part of your story, but if you have a properly developed religion and your story covers an extended period of time, then you’re probably going to run into at least one holiday. These can take the forms of exuberant festivals, solemn days of silence, religious fasting, etc. Obviously there are secular holidays as well, but the development of those holidays can be done in the exact same way so I’m not doing a separate post for them :P
How many holidays exist for each religion and culture? What is the purpose of each holiday? What are they celebrating or commemorating? Is participation mandatory? Do the holidays apply to all people or does only a specific group (regardless of which religion they practice) get to (or are forced to) participate in various aspects of the holiday?
How are they celebrated? You can use real world examples as your inspiration and consider all the facets that go into modern celebrations. Does the holiday center around food? What is eaten (or not) on this holiday? Are there any drinks reserved for the holidays, like the fantasy equivalent of champagne?
Is there a specific ceremony involved? Consider things like readings from sacred texts, performances, songs, etc. You can have things separated by age, like how modern children have Christmas pageants, etc.
Where is the holiday celebrated? Is it a personal thing or something that is celebrated in family groups or across the whole society? Does it have to be in a specific location? You can celebrate in a sacred building, like a church or mosque, or celebrate outdoors or in the town square.
Do people decorate for it? Consider things like candles, bonfires, flowers, and statues. Look at the ways different holidays are decorated for today and incorporate those into your fantasy holidays.
Do any of the holidays involve gift giving? If yes, who is giving gifts to who and what kind of gifts are they? We have different holidays were everyone exchanges gifts, ones between lovers, ones where parents gift their children, so decide the dynamics for any holidays you’re celebrating in your story.
Stepping away from holidays, let’s look at sacred sites. First off, do they exist? These can have the same range they do in our world. You have sacred water sources, standing stones, temples, churches, etc. What is it about those locations in your fantasy setting that prompted people to designate it as a sacred site? This is usually where some of your myths and legends will come into play. Do the people know the meaning of the sacred sites or has that been lost to time? What is the historical and spiritual significance of the sites your characters encounter? You don’t have to go into a ton of detail, but if your characters are traveling, passing something that alludes to ancient times, etc. can bring greater depth to the history of your world.
Are there differences between what is considered sacred from one culture to the next in your world? Is there anything specific that they all agree on?