Friday Lore Post: Holidays across Menechit

Not all of the world’s four hundred and four days were created equal. Some days hold special importance for different people over other days. Across Menechit, a number of significant holidays are observed. Most of them are or were originally religious holy days that are tied to specific observances or rituals, though some are tied to natural events or national histories. What follows is a description of some of Menechit’s major holidays.

Dolovai and Kyaine both celebrate a number of Catechism holy days throughout the year. All equinoxes and solistices, especially the vernal equinox, are considered important days, though there is rarely a public observance as priests are expected to perform the relevant rituals. For this reason, there are never church services on these days, though the Feast of Saint Marcus does take place on the day of the winter solstice. The feasts of individual saints are celebrated at regular intervals, with some of course being more important than others in current liturgy. There are far more saints than there are days in the year and not every saint has a formal day assigned to them, but there are two or three saints’ days per month that the church formally celebrates and recognizes. Typically the majority of celebrations are in the form of lengthy sermons in churches, though some of them will have special meals associated with them.

In the month of Novan, the Catechism observes the Feast of All Saints, a day in which all the saints are recognized for their holy deeds for the church. This happens at the very end of the month and is a full day of church services followed by a lengthy supper in which everyone expresses their gratitude to the saints for their sacrifices. Most people, in practice, only attend the morning church service, if only because they don’t have servants or volunteers to cook their feasts for them and they want the food later in the day.

Equally important to saints in the Catechism are martyrs, who also have their own day. Martyrs’ Day is celebrated on the tenth of Milon. This is not meant to be a joyous holiday but rather as solemn one in which people reflect on those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the church and therefore for the sake of combatting evil in the world. Most public buildings and businesses are closed on Martyrs’ Day, and though increasingly religious official bemoan that this important date is being treated as nothing but a day of rest, the holiday is also slowly transforming to be a day remembering not only the Catechism martyrs but all those who have died. Unofficially a tradition sprang up some hundred years ago of holding wakes for people who had died over the preceding year the day after Martyr’s Day, and though the Catechism originally denounced this as taking away from the sacrifices of the Martyrs, what is now known as the Day of the Resting has become a part of the official observance of Martyrs’ Day for most people.

Roughly a month prior to Martyrs’ Day, the people of Ech’kent observe a similar holiday honouring the dead called Welkanta. The whole month of Ezran is a month dedicated to the dead in Ech’kent, but Welkanta is a specific day when the shades of those who have died are known to be wandering the plateau and must be found and asked to return to the Caves of Whuvan and thus to the underworld. Failing to do this can result in the shades of people’s loved ones becoming vengeful and angry, and cursing their families.

T’nasha Nart, the Night of Stars, isn’t necessarily a holiday but is an important observance in Ech’kent. It is observed by everyone who is able staying up very late, outside, watching the stars and telling stories in the winter month of Jethrin. These are mostly stories about the plateu’s past, and tend to be generational stories about the families of the speaker. There are many common stories that are different depending on where they are told, and they are passed down through families. These stories have started to be collected in written form recently, to the dismay of some traditionalists. Ech’kent marks its holiest month in Soneen, or Chavejtenek as it is known there. The Month of Dragons is an autumnal month in which the first fruits of the autumn harvest are either placed on barges and floated down the river or left at the foothills of the mountains, in order to ensure a similarly good harvest the next year. This began as a sacrificial ritual to appease the plateau’s old draconic gods, and though those are no longer worshipped, most people will still make at least a small offering at some point during Chavejtenek. The end of the month is a two-day public festival celebrating the bounty that the people have reaped and the bounty yet to come.

While the people in Ech’kent are leaving their offerings, Dolovin parents observe Catta Night on the fourteenth of Soneen. This is a gift giving holiday in which a spirit named Cattamel is said to visit children and deliver prophetic dreams to them. The dreams children have on Catta Night are said to tell them what will happen to them for the remainder of the year. While the children are receiving their dreams, they also receive gifts from Cattamel. The origins of Catta Night are unclear, but records of it being observed go back to at least the beginning of the Flame War, and some posit that Cattamel may have been a spirit who helped Dolovai in that conflict. Catta Night is unique among Dolovin holidays in that it is not celebrated in Kyaine at all and has no counterpart there.

Dolovai’s other gift giving holiday, Candlewind, is shared with Kyaine. For four days leading up to the first new moon in the winter month of Arin, lights are strung everywhere to banish the darkness. Candles are lit for the duration of the dark hours and lamps are put in windows. Everyone is expected to light one new light for each of the four days leading up to the new moon, which is considered the darkest night of the year. On the day of the new moon, gifts are exchanged between family, friends and neighbours, and large communal meals are often had. Kyaine only celebrates Candlewind for two nights leading up to the new moon, and tends to find the four day celebration a bit gauche.

Dolovai and Kyaine both have national holidays that mark their founding as nations. Oak Day is celebrated on the fifth of Jethrin, and Kynanal is observed on the nineteenth of Novan. They are very similar holidays that give people a day off work and are generally an occasion for a parade and parties. Dolovai recognizes Oak Day in the winter, and though the holiday is always observed on the fifth, parades and other public celebrations, including public bonfires in rural areas, will be postponed in the event of poor weather. A major difference between the two holidays is that Oak Day is also oriented towards appreciation of House ven Sancte in a way that Kynanal is not for Kyaine’s ruling families, which many believe is because Kyaine doesn’t claim an unbroken monarchy as Dolovai does.

Many other holidays, some of them similar to those discussed here, are celebrated across the world. In Menechit as everywhere else, they serve to make the year more lively, give people something to look forward to, and to give them something to celebrate.

Excerpts from “The Social Institutions of Our Time, Modern Edition,” by Moira Marksadder, published at the Academy for Magecraft in Three Hills, DN 1954.

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