Date: March 7th
Color Scheme: Red, white, green, and pastels
March has always been a month of renewal in Reial. The end of winter, when the earliest leaves and flowers begin to bloom, is an occasion where nature is celebrated, relationships are forged and every good man or woman's fancy turns to romance and the coming planting season.
The exact origins are unknown, but many believe it was originally a practical holiday to prepare people for spring. Other, more cynical, speculations suggest it was actually a holiday designed to drum up match making and other related businesses during traditionally slow months and the 'coming of spring' angle was just to make it less obvious.
The countries have different celebrations dedicated to the season, but all of them share one trait: the expression of love and affection through flowers. While fresh flowers may be hard to come by, a clever alternative has become very popular over the years, and has taken the continent and surrounding islands by storm; flower shaped candies. Occasionally, the treats are actual flowers that have been candied especially for the occasion, but more recently flower shaped candies have come into fashion. In addition to these sweets, plain cards with flower designs, dried flowers, pressed flowers, painted flowers and so forth could also be sent as substitutes.
All flowers carry meanings consistent with flower language. A guide can be found here.
For those of you who do not wish to pick through it: Arbor Vitae is most commonly given to friends, red carnations to someone you wish to enter into courtship with, cyclamen to end a relationship, and ivy for two people in committed relationships. These are by no means exhaustive, but will provide a basic guide if you do not want to pick through the list.
In Ivona, the cold weather of early spring, as well as the suffocating urban sprawl and lack of open land, make it difficult for Ivonians to celebrate the splendor of nature. As a result, the most popular celebrations tend to take place indoors. Many people use it as an excuse to visit old friends and family, and much like in Lunasa, hospitality is shared in the form of large dinners and casual celebrations between loved ones. However, platonic affection is only one part of the holiday. Dances, parties, and dinners become more popular, especially amongst young singles and new couples. The increase in matchmaking and romantic gestures during the season is obvious, and lovers solidify their existing bonds while others scramble to find a partner of their own. In fact, it's even becoming more popular to start engagements and to propose marriage during Amicus, although people with more old fashioned sensibilities tend to think such displays are rather tacky.
However, celebrations aren't just based on love and affection. With its focus on new beginnings, many people use Amicus to forge business alliances and other types of beneficial partnerships. While fine restaurants may be filled with discrete couples muttering sweet nothings to each other, one is just likely to find a businessman treating an influential politician to dinner the next table over.
Thanks to the relative warmth of Vohemar's climate, as well as its wealth of fertile and undeveloped lands, the denizens of Vohemar are able to enjoy the wonders of nature in a way its neighbors to the north can not. As a result, Amicus celebrations here contain a strong agricultural focus, and are more likely to integrate outdoor activities. Much like in Ivona, there's an increase in matchmaking and romantic gestures; however, the most popular setting for these aren't in indoor parties and dances. Instead, romance is more likely to bloom in outdoor fairs and festivals. Their prevalence increases the further south one travels, but no matter where one goes in Vohemar, they still have several things in common. Games of chance are popular, and it's not uncommon to see young people (and quite a few older people) to enter games, contests, or competitions in order to impress a potential lover. The types of competitions vary, and can include anything from fanciful dance contests to machismo laden fighting matches, as well as cookoffs with foods and dishes that range from the simple to the surprisingly elaborate. It doesn't matter how big or small a hobby is, if people can brag and boast about it, then you can find them fighting over who's best at the fair.
However, Amicus isn't all fun and games for Vohemaros. About a week after the holiday ends, the breeding season for certain monsters begins. While it's not nearly as dangerous as the Long Night, people in the less developed regions of the nation must take care not to wander into their territory and disturb the easily agitated beasts.
The Badlands have always been a melting pot of traditions, as settlers from all over Reial and the surrounding islands settled the small settlements and towns. Unfortunately, the cities of the Badlands lack the structure, population, and arid land that the surrounding nations take for granted. As a result, many of the most popular Amicus celebrations are impractical, if not impossible, which results in a good deal of improvisation for holiday celebrations. The towns lucky enough to have livestock or arable land hold fairs to show off their animals and their wares, and become an interesting diversion for the caravan crews and smaller airships that come by to trade. The minstrels of Erealia are replaced with mournful singers armed with guitars and harmonicas, who sing tales of gunslingers and tragic young widows, while matchmakers are besieged by letters from distant miners and visits from parents looking for a good match for their children. Dances are also extremely popular, and lonely settlers from all over come by in the hopes of finding a spouse, or at the very least, some temporary companionship.
It should be noted that the increase in sales of shotguns and other firearms during Amicus are a complete coincidence.
The reputedly archaic island of Erealia is possibly the most romantic place to spend Amicus. Courtly romance blooms in every castle and nobleman's manor, as lords and ladies play delicate games to curry each others' favor. The people spend their days at the jousting tournaments, where valiant knights fight for their lady's honor, and then spend their nights dancing their cares away at countless balls and parties. It's truly a wondrous occasion for all involved ...so long as one can ignore the unfortunate increase in duels and the risk of flirting with a powerful noble's chosen beloved.
However, such occasions, both good and ill, are mostly reserved for the upper classes. For the peasants, serfs, and yeoman, the beginning of Amicus heralds an entirely different sort of pleasure: the start of the Spring Festivals. While these fairs share similarities to the ones in Vohemar, the Erealia festivals differ in some ways. Amicus is not the cause of the fairs; it merely heralds its beginning. Also, the focus tends to be more practical. Instead of contests to vie for one another's affections, the main focus tends to be more on trade. People flock from all around the nation to the major manors to share gossip, trade news, and, most importantly, buy and sell wares they may not get an opportunity to trade any time else. One can find rare goods, interesting tidbits of information, as well as the same travelling minstrels who sang tales of love and romance in the courts of the king and his vassals. While the fairs extend until the beginning of summer, they never quite reach the same peak they do at Amicus.
While the other nations focus on the lofty ideals of love, friendship, and renewal during Amicus, Kropmork celebrations focus on more cynical ideals: sex and money. The season is one long, glorified party, and the people revel in it. Decadent parties spring up in the homes of the rich and elite, while gaudy parades and impromptu festivities spill out into the streets. Dried rose petals are tossed like confetti, scantily clad dancers and performers put on a show for all who wish to see (and some who don't), and businesses and snake oil peddlers pop up to sell everything from food, pheromones, and products to prevent the more unpleasant side effects of the holiday. However, despite its reputation for debauchery (or perhaps because of it), Kropmork's take on the holiday has attracted the attention of a few academics: during this time, the Wizard's Academy conducts its yearly study on the effects of lust and heightened emotional states on magic.
Date: August 23rd
Color scheme: Red, gold, and orange
The origins of this holiday have long been forgotten, with only a handful of the truly old practices now remaining. However, most people that celebrate Lunasa now see it as a way to show your appreciation for friends and family, with more than a few harvest celebrations mixed in. One tradition that's been maintained in particular is that of decorating rocks, said to have originated from finding a use for rocks found in the fields. It's common for friends or family to find a large rock and decorate it as a group, and also for much smaller rocks to be decorated individually. It's also customary to keep a fire lit all through the night, and for one or two people in the family (typically the adults) to keep a vigil at the same time. While this holiday has its fair share of feasting, the traditional foods are simple, hearty dishes, mostly made from what fruits and vegetables are in season.
In Ivona, the holiday remains mostly a small affair for families or groups of friends to celebrate. As such, the fire that's kept burning all night is typically only the household's fireplace, or a torch or gas lamp for those in a pinch. Gift-giving is done differently depending on your age; the adults of the household tend to buy a bag of small gifts that are then randomly distributed to the children. Most people who are too old to receive presents like this will exchange gifts directly, which are traditionally items that have a practical use. Lunasa is a very calm holiday in general in this country, even though the holiday itself doesn't have quite as large a significance as others do.
Lunasa has more of a community focus in Vohemar. Gifts aren't given out between individuals as it's done in Ivona; instead, when visiting family on this day, it's customary to bring the host a gift and for the guests to also receive gifts in return. Since this holiday is seen as a good time to check in on the rest of your family, this practice is done surprisingly often. Vohemaro celebrations on this night aren't small gatherings at all. Instead of individual households lighting fires, a huge bonfire is instead made for the entire town, or for separate communities in the cities. Unless they have business elsewhere, the people that have been charged with the night's vigil tend to congregate around the bonfires and do their celebrating there.
In the Badlands, bonfires are lit as they are in Vohemar, and kept lit to the best of their ability. However, the gifts exchanged are usually that of food, including treats for the children and larger dishes or drinks for the adults. Even those who don't have a family are either invited to smaller gatherings or join in potlucks hosted by the entire town. Many people in the Badlands are very generous to strangers on this night, as anyone going without a good meal on this holiday is considered an ill omen.
In Erealia, Lunasa is seen as a time for the lords to give back to the peasants working under them. It's customary for the nobles to hold a feast for the lower-class people working on their land, and to also hand out practical gifts to their workers and whoever else might be in need of it. It's similar further up the line as well; while the King doesn't host a banquet (since all the lords are busy with their own), he does send out gifts to the nobles, often a small monetary donation.
In Kropmork, the focus is a little more on feasting due to the somewhat strange appearance of the Hogfather. On this night, he leaves pork-based food products for the people that have been good, and a sack of bones for those who have been bad. The definition of 'good' or 'bad' seems to be up to this mysterious figure alone. Otherwise, gifts are still exchanged like normal for this holiday.
Date: December 14th - 21st
Color scheme: Silver and other cool colors; red and black in Vohemar only
The winter solstice has always been a significant magical event. In particular, the Long Night itself has been known for ages as the time when the fabric of the universe itself grows thin, allowing demons and harmful spirits to slip through and come to our world. In the past, the entire week before the Long Night was spent in prayer and meditation, all leading up to the evening of the solstice, when the real celebrations start. That's when people dress up in costumes and make as much noise as they can to scare away the spirits, other methods including fireworks and loud music, drums being a traditional instrument. The parties start at dusk and end at dawn, when the weary partygoers finally drag themselves to bed, secure in the knowledge that the demons have been driven back for yet another year.
The holiday has changed somewhat over the years. In Ivona, much of the spiritual significance has been lost, though mages and scientists still regard the solstice as an important event in their own studies. The week before the Long Night is now used for more practical matters, such as cleaning, baking, or decorating. It's also a popular time for travel, as many Ivonans visit distant relatives during this week. The partying on the Long Night itself remains unchanged, as do a number of traditions. Nearly every occupied house will place a branch of holly and oak on their front door, now more for the holiday itself rather than to ward off spirits. Many of the past spiritual chants have turned into holiday songs and rhymes that are popular with children. Additionally, the day after the Long Night is typically spent resting up with one's family.
In Vohemar, the Long Night takes on special significance - it's the anniversary of the rebellion that marked their split from Ivona. Due to both this, and the early problems with nightly monster attacks in the country's history, the Long Night has become more of a celebration of its hunters and warriors. The week leading up to the solstice has many of its own diversions, including fairs and festivals that often boast competitions of everything from foot races to fighting tournaments. While the partying is more light-hearted in the cities, the smaller towns and areas closer to the wild treat the nights during this holiday with far more vigilance. One other major difference in Vohemar is that most parties (including the one of the Long Night itself) take place on the next day instead of at night, as the dark is still seen as a dangerous time.
The Long Night is more of a mixture of Vohemaro festivals and Ivonan parties in the Badlands. The week leading up to the solstice might have quite a few city fairs and livestock shows, but the watch is also increased at night, and many rituals are performed to ensure safety. It's a popular time for telling ghost stories, especially among the children that enjoy scaring each other... but many of these stories have their own grain of truth, as the Badlands has always had its fair share of strange events, many of which inexplicably happen in the days leading up to the Long Night. The night itself has slightly calmer celebrations, along the lines of the Ivonan parties, and it's considered a good idea to stick as close as you can to other family members.
In Erealia, the holiday is very similar to as it's practiced in Vohemar, except that there is a special emphasis put on knightly competitions such as jousting and other tournaments. For the rich, the Long Night is an annual occasion to enjoy oneself at a huge costume ball hosted in the King's castle. The poor have their own parties, which have retained much of their spiritual bent among the superstitious peasants.
What might be superstition among most people becomes harsh reality in Kropmork. The Long Night is regarded as a horrible event by most Kropmork residents, for the sole reason of the strengthening (and sometimes unpredictable) effects the solstice has on magic. For a city that boasts a magic university and many of its own mages, paranoia during this holiday might just keep you alive. While magic-users might be setting up experiments, most normal folk use the approaching week as a time to prepare themselves for magical accidents, doing such things as boarding up their homes and stocking their cellars with food. A disaster always happens on the Long Night, in some way or another, which is why many wizards and town guards can be found patrolling the streets. Meanwhile, safely boarded up in their homes, the normal townsfolk traditionally feast on their favorite foods, as it might be their last meal if the night finds them to be unlucky.
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