I first posed this question in the worldbuilding subreddit, which is aimed at people who write or create sci-fi and fantasy worlds: “This reddit is about sharing your worlds and discussing the many aspects of creating new universes.”
In Red Mars, there’s reference to old Earth festivals and traditions being carried over. Let’s say this post and its readers is made up of the administrators and community spokespeople tasked with deciding “the calendar” for a very new society, and that the civilians of your town (let’s say of 5000 people, in case it ever comes up) have all voted that it would be best to create a new, secular, equalitarian calendar, including holidays and festivals. Let’s also say, for argument’s sake, that a year is 365 days, and seasons are the same as they are on Earth (including Australia being Opposite Land, so let’s keep that in mind if possible). We want a “special day” roughly once every month, spread throughout the year.
- What are some holidays and festivals that you think should be implemented? (they can be duplicates of or inspired by current Earth holidays, or they can be completely new ideas)
- When is the best time for the school year to start and finish? Should there be a long holiday between years (as in the UK and the US), or should the long holiday be part way through the school year (as in Japan)
- Should be there gender- or age-specific days? “Boys’ coming of age day”, for example, or “respect for the aged day”.
- Should festivals and holidays be purely centred on human activity, or should they be seasonal?
- What “traditions” would you like to encourage as part of your holidays? Should everyone wear green New Year’s Day? Should everyone eat a specific kind of food for a specific kind of festival?
- Should we focus on celebrations that occur in private, in the home? Or should the majority of festivals focus on some kind of interaction with the local or wider community?
I got one response to this on reddit, from user _nimue:
First off I think the “Mars” trilogy should be required reading for worldbuilders… it’s an amazing example.
But to your specific question, to me, there are two kinds of holidays: those that are deliberately implemented, and those that arise organically.
The first category includes things like state holidays- independence day (founder’s day for a colony?), days commemorating historic events, and so on. Some societies will have more of these than others depending on how “official” or “enforced” they want their sense of community to be.
The second includes things like religious or “traditional” holidays- Christmas, calendar New Year, Lunar New Year. These are difficult for a society to sit down and plan. Even non-religious traditional holidays tend to arise organically from the ambient culture; my dorm, for example, wanted an inoffensive winter celebration and chose to call it Festivus, a la Seinfeld, and borrowed “ceremonies” from the show. Why? Because it was more fun and less sterile than simply having a “winter party”. Something in the human brain likes ceremony and traditions, but doesn’t like being ordered to perform them.
There’s obviously overlap. American Thanksgiving is a great example. Putting aside the false story regarding the pilgrims, the holiday really grew out of a lot of traditional fall celebrations and erratic national holidays until an official date was fixed and it became a nationally-mandated annual holiday.
I imagine in a space colony environment, there’s going to be a mix of desires. On one hand, probably a lot of the inhabitants relish the opportunity to create a new society from a semi-blank slate. On the other, there’s going to be homesickness and longing for a connection with the old world or their previous lives back on Earth (or wherever). So some celebrations will be carried over, though perhaps modified and reinvented, and some new ones will be implemented based on the history of that particular colony. Which are carried over depends a great deal on where the people in the colony originated.