Last December I wrote about world-building holidays. This weekend, however, reminded me of an important element to consider in creating holidays and determining your characters’ responses to them: not everyone likes holidays.
Take the Fourth of July in America for example. Most people love the holiday, but not all. It’s hot outside, everywhere you go there are crowds, and then there’s people making enough noise to wake the dead into the wee hours of the morning. People with timid pets spend the night trying to console furry face-huggers. Veterans with PTSD can really struggle.
There are more reasons for a person to dislike certain (or even all) holidays than there are holidays. A traumatic event in their life may have happened on that day. They could be severe introverts or have crowd anxiety. People could behave like jerks on that particular day. They may be against whatever it is being celebrated. They may be impacted in some way that most people are not (take, for example, our retail workers who increasingly have to give up more and more of their Thanksgiving Day, or our emergency response workers who have to deal with the downside of our lighting off enough legal explosives to conquer a medium-sized country).
On the other hand, a character’s reaction to a particular holiday could say more about that character than the holiday itself. Take the most famous of all holiday-haters, Ebenezer Scrooge. It can be another interesting way of showing-instead-of-telling. They may have some added insights or perspective that shows the darker side of the supposedly-beloved celebration (ie. people giving chicks and bunnies for Easter, which then grow up and aren’t cute any more, and get sent to the shelter). Or perhaps the character’s reaction appears to be irrational (and perhaps is vindicated later), causing everyone else to dislike that character.
In every day life not all holidays are created equal. People love some holidays, tolerate others, and perhaps even despise one or two. People react differently to different holidays. Exploring the “other side” of holidays can help add more reality to your world or expose different aspects of your characters. Taking time to devise not just the holidays but how people respond to them can be a useful tool in a writer’s toolbox.