Monday, December 23, 2013

Guest Post: Hannah Stewart on Christmas in Raven Falls

Christmas in Raven Falls
By Hannah Stewart

Raven Falls is the fictitious town in upstate New York that acts as the backdrop for my Breaking Shadows series. It was based off of Thornton Wilder’s Grover’s Corners… that is, if Grover’s Corners were dropped into a filthy, dystopian future with parallels to the French Revolutionary Era. The world of Breaking Shadows is a dark one, a harsh one, governed with a militaristic mindset. Raven Falls is a place where only the strong survive, and good people have to do bad things. But Raven Falls is also a place of hope. It’s a place to rise up from the ashes of oppression and begin again.

This dystopian future is bleak, and very different from the world we live in now, but there are some things that remain. Christmas is one of them, though it, too, is very different. Most holidays have been banned, along with music, in an attempt to subdue the people. Christmas was the exception, as it has always been a huge staple of our country’s economy every year… at least, that was the original reason. December 25th is also the only day music is allowed anywhere, which makes it a very special day for my characters. It’s a day of hope, in the midst of desolation – which, really, has always been the purpose of Christmas.

In the first book, Bold, we do not get to see what Christmas looks like in Raven Falls. However, in the next three there will be a handful of examples from various levels of society, some of which I am happy to be sharing here today!


The first picture of Christmas in Raven Falls is that of the Resnik Rebels… the old Resnik Rebels, that is. Ben and Jesse, their parents, and the small army their parents raised. For most poor commoners of Raven Falls, Christmas is a sparse and private affair. But for the Resnik Rebels hidden away in the woods of an abandoned ranch just beyond the town’s borders, Christmas is a real party. Much of the town is buried in deep, icy snow this time of year, but Jack and Sylvia Resnik keep much of their camp clear, working hard to keep preparations from halting altogether. Christmas day is nothing too special, but Christmas night culminates with a giant bonfire. The rebels are poor, and have little to give but what they’re already sacrificing in order to save their town – but that won’t keep them from having a good time. With stomachs rumbling, they dance around the fire until the light of morning comes again, singing to their hearts' content, holding hands and worshiping in their hearts. It’s simple, but it’s beautiful – and these Christmas celebrations are one of the few things Jesse can remember from before her parents and their army were stolen away.

The second picture of Christmas comes to us from Jude and his family, again when he was very young. They, too, lived on a ranch just outside of town, but they were better off than the rebels. Christmas was a day of rest, a day for Jude and his parents to come together. His father was a distant man, but on Christmas mornings he pulled out his beloved guitar and played for them. They weren’t a rich family, but each of them had at least a little something to unwrap, and Jude’s mother always prepared a wonderful dinner, complete with all of their favorites. Christmas night, however, is always one of Jude’s favorite memories. His father would hook his horse, Jethro, to their small sleigh, and the family would go for a ride beneath the stars, curled up under as many blankets as they could find, singing all the way.

Perhaps the most familiar Christmas scene is the one we find with Dr. Jon Mullen and his family, before they joined the Resnik Rebels. Until they gave up everything to join the rebels in the slums, the Mullens were your typical example of the Raven Falls well-to-do. Every Christmas, their townhouse would be lit with warm, flickering candles in every window, a roaring fireplace, and a small tree in one corner. Presents were abundant for each of them, especially little Charlie, and dinner was a feast of the highest quality. A few carols were traditional, but not many.

Finally, the most common Raven Falls Christmas is exemplified by Colleen and Mason’s family. Their mother has been out of the picture for years – she died in childbirth. They’re your typical street rats, living in a ramshackle shelter propped up between two crumbling townhouses. The lyrics of a certain Aladdin song come to mind when they’re involved. Their father is a jack of all trades, working any odd job he can find, while Colleen and Mason work the streets, begging and stealing when necessary. But their father always sets aside a little something for the special day, and surprises them each with a little pastry from the market. They spend the day in their cold little shelter, singing and dancing along to their father’s violin – their one prized possession.

Raven Falls isn’t a fun place, but on Christmas day, it comes alive with its people, all clinging to the little spark of hope they hold so dear. Christmas in this dystopian world isn’t the big affair we make it these days, but it’s special, and full of hope. Even with the little they have, its residents are full of faith and cheer come Christmas morning and on through the night, because they have each other, and they have music. It’s the simple things that make the heart sing, and perhaps we could all use a reminder of that going into our own various styles of Christmas celebration.

From myself and all the residents of Raven Falls, have a very Merry Christmas!

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