Let me commend you on excellent content and organization. It was an insightful and enlightening approach to holiday building.
Editing was below your usual standard, though, making me wonder whether you rushed this to print. Particularly, there are a lot of wrong words--a few homophones misused, a few that were apparently misspellings that are the correct spellings of different words. I don't know if you can fix that, but it would be worth doing if so. (In which case, "straightforward" is a compound word whose meaning is distinct from the two words separately, and you meant that in this case.)
I'll also tag on that anyone looking for holiday ideas might find something useful in a long compiled list at http://www.mjyoung.net/dungeon/holidays.html Holidays for Imaginary Worlds. A few of them are my own, but most are compiled from the game ideas of others. They also give something of a view of what might be called interlocking calendars, as there are several "new yeaer" festivals held at entirely different times of the year, much as we have in our own world.
One really fun example that the writer and I and I'm sure many others have shared is the Longest Night from Privateer Press's Witch Fire Trilogy. In the world of the Iron Kingdoms, due to the way the calendar is set up, there is a sort of leap year day which is when people cavort and dress up as the dead. Well, one can easily see how that can be used in a fun adventure.
Another thing the Iron Kingdoms does is have different names for days, months and celebrations for the different religions in the world which is a nice touch given the importance religion plays in the world.
Finally, in connection with sacred time and very easily used in a game is the role of the lunar calendar and how the moon(s) affect things either physically or just socially. Great article, yet again. -leeman
This was a great column again a lot of interesting interpretation of religions in RPG's. Although you did a great job of presenting the major categories of what you consider important calendar dates and even added a few older examples, I think you understated the impact that cyclical events, or recurring events had. Persephone goes to the underworld but the reason the story exists is to simplify seasonal change, to explain natural events, sometimes to tie them to a greater power or as many anthropologist suggest to satisfy deep-seated fears.
I divide events into several categories each with their obvious determining factors, but all require some critical environmental events other cyclical events that do not impact the society but eventually were given religious significance.
Lunar cycles- many primitive peoples noticed that tides, womens birthing, even moods were impacted by the moon's cycle. And calendars themselves were often created based upon lunar cycles. Although some deified the moon, others celebrated deities or begged for deities.
Solar and Lunar events (red moons, blue moons, eclipses, even sunsets and sunrises), also longest and shortest day ceremonies and new and full moons-the inuit of Alaska celebrated the dark month and said that's when the dead rose from the sea to steal souls, others celebrated the longest day (a month long of sunlight). Many of these events had religious celebrations tied to them (some celebrations were funeral like in their practice). These celebrations were memorized by the people and performed once the event took place.
Space events: Comets, asteroids (falling stars), meteor showers like the Perseid's , even constellation changes. A bear cult on the Pacific in America believed that when Venus appeared that was the only time judgment could be made against criminals.
Atmospheric events: Hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, dust storms, Monsoon seasons, even rainstorms. Aztecs celebrated the Santa Anna winds. The vikings would not travel by boat if certain atmospheric conditions existed because it meant they displeasured a god.
Localized geologic/ecologic events: Volcanoes, floods, trees falling, certain mating seasons, animal behavior changes, earthquakes, geysers, river changes, forest fires, glacier breaking
Seasonal changes: This is usually obvious, although monsoon is normally included in seasonal I include it in atmospheric and seasonal because it is tied to both. In some areas there are only two seasons, or three seasons. Not every culture exists in a strictly quartered year. The example about the Longest night has some background in ancient practices akin to season changes. Winter has the longest night and summer the longest day in N. America, consider that in cultures where the peasantry lived in very cold quarters, the longest night must have been a nightmare. One city sate elected a King for this holiday who was able to do anything he wanted and get anything he wanted without question, then at the end of the day he was ritually murdered to preserve the kingdom. Strangely enough that's where we get our modern festival Kings and queens including prom King. Of course my experiences in High school make me wonder if they still shouldn't sacrifice the fake royalty but hey loook at the time
Local Social Event based: in some cultures, weddings are all held on the same day determined by the village elders, and are then considered holy; funerals; in very primitive culture Hunting trips are extremely important and have a large number of sacred rites connected to them; births; sickness; bleeding times (for women, very sacred in almost every animist cult), death;
Each of these events can then have stories tied to them, or have prayers said about them. Some anthropologists suggest myths began because of the events, some suggest myths exist prior to the notice of the event and then the event is tied to the myth. And some suggest each is true. While some events are so great myths are created about them, others are insignificant but previously formed religions create their significance. Even though I hate clan of the Cave bear the movie and the book show interesting examples of several different event types. These are just additions to a well organized column thanks