[Blue] Everybody loves obligatory Christmas episodes, but some stories take place in distant worlds of fantasy, or outer space. Heck, maybe it’s a Christmas story in*outer space. So what do you do when your story doesn’t have Christmas? [Red] You make a pseudo-Christmas! These festive winter holidays definitely aren’t Christmas but you better believe they’ll have presents, parties, themes of togetherness, and decorated evergreens if you’re feeling fancy. [Blue] And in honor of the holiday season, today we’ll be ranking 12 of these pseudo-Christmases from lamest to best. [Red] Considerations include creativity of the holiday, relevance to the actual story, and thematic relevance to the real holiday season. The best case scenario is a creatively constructed fictional holiday that strongly factors into the plot while still sending a message that can be applied to the real holiday celebrations. [Blue] With no further ado, let’s begin. Filling out the bottom of our list is the Feast of Lights, a two-day New Year’s festival celebrated in the extensive Wheel of Time series with parades, parties, and lighting a whole bunch of lamps in every window. In one city it plays out like the ancient Roman Saturnalia festival where the normally strict social order drops all of its pretenses and the citizens do whatever they want. Despite the festiveness on display, it’s low on the list because it has nothing to do with the story and it only serves as a backdrop for the other stuff going on. It’s not a holiday story, it’s a story with holidays in it. Another pseudo-Christmas from another beloved fantasy series, Erastide comes with all the trimmings of Christmas: decorated evergreens, huge feasts, all that jazz. A key difference is that Erastide isn’t explicitly a winter festival, but is instead a celebration of the day that the seven gods created the world, and the standard Christmassy celebrations are supplemented with a play recounting that story. This is all very cool, but again, it’s mostly just set dressing. Erastide is only in the story here because it’s the significant prophecy date when our hero pulls out a magic sword and finds out he’s the one true king. Pretty neat, but not very Christmassy. [Red] Taking a break from fantasy to swing into sci-fi, Prixin from Star Trek Voyager is a Talaxian multi-day holiday celebrating family and togetherness with a big party and a lot of food. But unfortunately, it serves as a backdrop to an extremely depressing plot line where the Talaxian protagonist Neelix is briefly killed and instead of finding a beautiful afterlife and reuniting with his dead family, he finds nothing. When he’s healed, he has a massive existential crisis and becomes actively suicidal until the crew convinces him that he’s a valued member of their family and they need him around. It’s kind of like It’s a Wonderful Life in space, which is kind of on-brand for the holiday, but still a huge downer. So while this holiday is called Yule in the story, we gotta remember that it’s canonical in-universe that the entire Lord of the Rings was translated into English from a text written in Westron. So it’s not *actually* called Yule. That’s just what the fictional translators named it. Anyway, Yule is a six-day celebration held in the Shire to ring in the New Year and it’s a traditional midwinter festival full of feasting and merriment. It’s only referenced in the appendices in the very end of Return of the King, but it’s appropriately on brand and very festive, and post scouring of the Shire, the festivities serve as a nice way to close out that whole mess. [Blue] The New Life Festival is the in-lore excuse for the Elder Scrolls franchise to give players festive holiday-themed quest events and items around the holiday season. It’s not-so-coincidentally held on the 25th of December– in-universe called “Evening Star.” Canonically speaking, while it’s a basic gift-giving and partying holiday now, it used to be a celebration of the sun god, Magnus, which is awfully similar to how December 25th used to be the festival of Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun. That’s neat! Good lore! But there’s not much else here since it’s mostly just an in-universe reason for the real-world season. Another in-universe justification for out-of-universe festivities, the Feast of Winter Veil from World of Warcraft beats out the Elder Scrolls because it gives us not one, but two Santa figures. Depending on your allegiance to the Alliance or to the Horde, you’ll either get festive holiday-themed quests from the dwarf Great Father Winter or from the orc Great Father Winter. And the only thing better than one Santa is two Santas who also want each other dead. I wonder if they ever get their presents factories confused with their weapons labs. [Red] Now this one’s a bit of a cheat because Emperor’s Day is really only referenced in the expanded universe of Warhammer 40k and the details are a little bit fuzzy, as are the mechanics of celebrating the New Year at the same time across multiple different planets with different orbital periods. It’s some form of New Year’s celebration where gifts are exchanged and the achievements of the God-Emperor of Mankind are celebrated, but beyond that the details aren’t really established. But I have to give this one points because the fan base really likes it and it might be the only bit of festive holiday cheer in the entire grim darkness of the far future where there is only war. The Winter Solstice episode of Xena: Warrior Princess has everything, and when I say everything I mean everything. The heroes face a miserly old king who refuses to let his subjects celebrate Solstice, which involves caroling, feasting, gift-giving, and decorating trees. The king’s humble clerk, a former toy maker named Senticles, overcomes his fear of enclosed spaces to sneak into an orphanage through a chimney to deliver gifts. The heroes trick the King into thinking they’re the three fates of past, present, and future to convince him to mend his ways and then on the way out of town, they run into a lovely young couple with a magic glowing baby and give them their donkey so they can get West faster following a really bright star. Any story that mashes together A Christmas Carol, the creation of Santa Claus, and baby Jesus without becoming completely incoherent earns my respect and a place in the top half of this list. [Blue] The story of Team Fortress 2’s Australian Christmas claims that when the crotchety old Nicholas Crowder first landed on the shores of Australia, he said “Screw this!” and immediately left to go conquer the South Pole instead. Legend says that every December 18th he returns to Australia and abducts all the naughty children, forcing them to make him gifts for a year. He then sells all the duplicate gifts online for extremely low prices. While this is another excuse for holiday themed in-game events, this one gets points for sheer creativity and being extremely on-brand for TF2, and also for canonically making the South Pole into Australia’s own Australia. Okay, look, I know. Life Day debuted in the infamously terrible Star Wars Holiday Special; how dare it be so high on this list, right? Yes, I know, but hear me out. Just because the story it’s in sucks doesn’t mean that the holiday itself is bad. There’s nothing more quintessentially George Lucas than coming up with some genuinely interesting lore and wrapping it in the most nonsensical narrative possible. So, Life Day is a Wookiee-specific holiday celebrating life, mourning, death, and reaffirming their connection with the planet Kashyyyk. This holiday rose in prominence when the Galactic Civil War scattered the Wookiees all across the galaxy, with many of them ending up enslaved or otherwise very far from home. In response to the loss of community, the Wookiees started celebrating Life Day a lot more seriously to stay connected to their roots even while their society was in turmoil. This is actually a little more similar to Hanukkah than to Christmas in that it’s a holiday strongly celebrated by a people in diaspora to remember their roots. This is a very cool concept that captures the spirit of the season without directly ripping off Christmas point for point. It also got some good press in Star Wars Galaxies back when that was a thing, so it’s not just the holiday special. [Red] In the number-two spot is the Festival of the Bells, a celebration from Fraggle Rock with a very practical purpose. Over the course of the Year the rock our heroes live in slows down and gets colder and colder so on the coldest day the Fraggles get together and all ring bells which will in turn ring the Great Bell in the center of the rock to get it moving for another year, but this year, protagonist Gobo is disillusioned with the holiday and hung up on the fact that this ritual doesn’t make sense. Instead of ringing the bells, he decides to go find the Great Bell itself to prove it really exists and make the holiday mean something. But when he finds the center of the rock, there’s no Great Bell there, and in the meantime everyone freezes as the rock stops moving. Cantus tells Gobo that there might not be a Great Bell in the center of the rock, but there was no Great Bell last year either and the rock still moved. The real Great Bell is in the heart of the rock and the heart of the rock is a metaphorical location where the party is. When he starts ringing his own bell the others thaw out the rock starts moving again. The real Great Bell is basically the celebration itself. This holiday captures the spirit of the season without directly ripping off any real world celebration while also communicating a message to that does apply to the real world. The holiday means something even if the pretenses aren’t as tangible and real as you might have hoped. Pretty good message, considering the show’s target age group was probably just starting to question the logistics of Santa Claus. And in the top spot, a fictional holiday that resembles Christmas without just being Christmas, that tells a story relevant to the real world and to the holiday season without ripping either one from reality. Hogswatch, celebrated in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, is a winter holiday with caroling, presents, big dinners with families, and food left out for a gift-giving spirit in a red suit with a flying sleigh. Hogswatch is one of many elements in the Discworld that bear a suspicious resemblance to our world. Previous similarities have included a semi-sentient eldritch abomination shopping mall, a hot new musical trend called Music With Rocks In that was also semi-sentient and a bit of an eldritch abomination, and the world’s first gun… which was also a semi-sentient eldritch abomination. But Hogswatch isn’t an extradimensional eldritch incursion. It’s very grounded in the history of the Discworld, a winter festival with very ancient roots, originally a pagan festival of sacrifice to bring back the Sun on the coldest night of the year, and it’s also not just a cheerful backdrop for an otherwise unrelated story. In the book Hogfather, Hogswatch is sabotaged by an assassin who’s been commissioned to kill the Hogfather and attempts to do so by preventing children from believing in him. The anthropomorphic personification of death, a recurring character in the series, steps up to do the Hogfather’s job and keep the belief in the holiday flowing while Death’s granddaughter, Susan, finds a way to stop the assassin. And if they fail, the Sun won’t rise. Oh, sure, a ball of flaming gas will still illuminate the world, but the message of the book is summed up in the narration itself: “Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.” That line alone is raw enough to give Hogswatch the top spot, but the narrative overall captures the winter vibe really well. Sure, the world will still turn and spring will still come if we don’t have a party, but what’s the point if we don’t make it mean something? Hogswatch takes the top spot by telling the best Christmas story I’ve ever seen without actually being about Christmas at all. Go read it. [Blue] And that’s our official top 12 fictional pseudo-Christmases. [Red] Feel free to drop a comment with your own favorite or to complain about our ranking. [Blue] Because there’s nothing more in the spirit of the season than yelling at somebody over the Internet. [Red] Happy holidays to all. [Blue] Ah, the holidays.
Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsv4wxPiIdw

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