January 2, 2013 by K. L. Wightman
Literature played a strong role in our holiday seasons this year. Many (if not most) playhouses performed their version of A Christmas Carol. Children listened to recitations of ’Twas the Night Before Christmas and storytime readings of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! And we can’t forget ballet performances based on the famous story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.
Other mediums also pumped up the holiday spirit. Movies have recreated literary classics and other films generated new Christmas tales. Traditional carols were sung alongside holiday-inspired tunes on the radio. And there were television specials dedicated to the season by celebrating these songs and stories.
But Christmas isn’t the only holiday that literature celebrates. Halloween haunts stories like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Historical retellings encompass honorary days: Columbus landing in the New World, the feast between pilgrims and Native Americans, Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership in the Civil Rights Movement, the thirteen colonies declaring independence from Great Britain.
And, of course, there are movies for these holidays as well. Like that one comedy that celebrates a groundhog again and again and again.
Sometimes we read books that incorporate elements of a holiday around that designated day. Irish folklore is retold on St. Patrick’s Day, stories of rabbits and chickens are read on Easter, and accounts or stories about wars and battles grab our attention around Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Does literature have an impact on how we celebrate our holidays?
We nickname those that lack Christmas spirit with the name Scrooge and mock them with the phrase, “Bah, humbug!” We decorate our homes with festive nutcrackers. We even nickname those that try to spoil the holiday with the name Grinch.
And we quote our favorite lines from our beloved Christmas movies.
Some genres that never mention a holiday are still honored on holidays. Horror fiction and gothic novels are celebrated around Halloween because both books and holiday share the same scary mood. Romance novels are read around Valentine’s Day and Sweetest Day because they all share the same romantic mood.
Sometimes literature is read not because it mentions the holiday, or even our traditions of the holiday, but because it shares the same emotions that we feel on these designated days.
Literature in itself has become part of our holiday traditions. After we decorate our houses and windows with iconic images of literary characters and settings, we read books and sing songs and watch movies that intensify our anticipation for the holiday.
In other words, we have traditions of reading specific books around specific seasons year after year after year. These stories that we know by heart still evoke memories of holidays past that we still cherish.
If only a handful of books and stories have contributed to our holiday traditions, why aren’t there more holiday books?
Writing for the holidays means that the writing is read only around the holidays. That’s probably a month’s span of time where the reader will have any interest in the writing. The writing will sit on dusty shelves for the other eleven months and not make money.
But, then again, the writing is read around the holidays. It will be read every holiday, year after year. Around the holiday, your writing will be brought to the front of bookshelves, moved to the top of recommended reading lists, and shared around the Internet.
Not only will the writer’s work get annual attention, but the writer also has an opportunity to shape future holidays with the written word. A character can become the next holiday icon or nickname. A plot action can become the next holiday tradition. A writer’s name might become synonymous with the holiday.
Do you have a story worth becoming a tradition?