The Importance of Holidays Edit
Holidays and festivals occupy a central part of changeling life. These periods of celebration not only serve as times when mortals edge marginally closer to the Dreaming, they provide the Kithain with the opportunity to remember the traditions these holidays honor, thus bringing them in touch with their lost past.
Kithain use holidays as excuses to expend Glamour, putting it back into a world leeched of its revitalizing energy. In addition, they are often occasions when changelings and mortals may interact without fear of attracting too much Banality. During holidays, Banality and disbelief are at their ebb, since most celebrations have an innately supernatural aspect to them that defies reason. Children who believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are often joined at Christmas and Easter by adults who act as if they, too, believe in these symbols of gifts and replenishment. Humans, for these brief periods of revelry and celebration, allow themselves to experience the fires of their imaginations. Some changelings maintain that if everyday could be a holiday, mortals would slough off their cares and rationalizations and dream freely once again.
The changeling calendar consists of many festivals, which are often used, as they were in medieval times, to keep track of the passing of the year. Before the Shattering, the calendar marked the cycle of Seelie and Unseelie rule. Since the Resurgence, many of the old traditions have fallen by the wayside, but the forms remain constant as the dance of days continues its stately progress through the seasons. New holidays have risen up to take the place of old ones, but the procession of festivities goes on.
Changeling Festivals Edit
During certain times of the year, those of the major festivals, all Kithain come together to celebrate the Dreaming. The following celebrations are held in common by both Seelie and Unseelie changelings, and constitute the major holidays of Kithain life.
- Imbolc, February 2nd
- The balefire is the most important feature of a freehold, keeping out the cold wind of Banality and preserving the Glamour that maintains the freehold. Imbolc is a festival celebrating the balefire and its replenishment after the long darkness of winter. Also known as Bard's Day, Imbolc marks great competitions among bards and other performers. Originally sacred to the Celtic goddess Brigid, patroness of fire, smithcraft and poetry, Imbolc honors the creative spirit.
- On Midwinter's Night, special travelers, called firebrands, set out from Tara-Nar, carrying lanterns that contain fire from the Well of Flame beneath High King David's palace. The lanterns are used to replenish the balefire of every freehold during the Imbolc ceremony. It is considered a bad omen if the firebrands fail to make their appearance at a freehold before Imbolc.
- Carnival, February 28th
- Formerly a wake for an old age and a birthday party for a new one, Carnival has risen in prominence since High King David assumed the throne. Now it celebrates the new unity between nobles and commoners. It is a night when kings and queens enchant entire cities, enabling the wholesale gathering of Glamour. Masked by the human Mardi Gras festivities, Carnival celebrations mark some of the Kithain's wildest parties.
- Borrowing from such diverse sources as English Boxing Day and the ancient festival of Lughnasa, the ritual central to Carnival involves the elevation of a local mortal, befuddled by alcohol or dizzy with an overdose of Glamour, to the position of King or Queen of Carnival, while the local monarch takes the part of a jester. The new "monarch's" word is considered law, although in most cases, the chosen mortal is too addled by the effects of substance abuse to issue any commands which might have lasting repercussions. The "jester," on the other hand, is open to all the abuse of his or her new position. Some kings and queens dread the approach of Carnival, but put up with it as part of their duty as rulers.
- There are only three laws of Carnival:
- There can be no retribution for any word spoken or deed done. A monarch cannot exact revenge against harassers.
- Carnival is sacrosanct; all who attend are welcome and safe. Anyone violating this principal is summarily subjected to any punishment decreed by the bleary-eyed Carnival King or Queen.
- Let merriment reign!
- Carnival ends at sunrise on the following day. In most cases, the Carnival King or Queen is released from duty and sent home, none the worse for wear. In certain Unseelie demesnes, it is rumored, the mortal becomes a ritual sacrifice.
- The Greening, April 4th
- Commonly celebrated in southern Concordia, the Greening is an informal festival commemorating the beginning of spring. It is also called the Festival of Crocuses, as celebrants weave these early spring flowers into their hair and clothes. Each childling receives a crown of woven grass, and wilders participate in morris dancing. It does not bode well for the coming year if no grass can be found for weaving into crowns.
- Beltaine, May 2nd
- One of the two major festivals of the changeling calendar, Beltaine is a nighttime spring fertility festival which celebrates life and love. At one time, fae went out into the fields and formed tame chimerical beasts into a line between bonfires lit from the local freehold's balefire.
- Beltaine once marked the formal beginning of the Seelie half of the year, during which time the Unseelie surrendered its power to the opposite Court. As such, Beltaine traditionally represents a time of peace and amity. The infamous Night of Iron Knives stands as a notable instance of the gross abuse of the Beltaine peace.
- Beltaine also sees the blossoming of new romances, particularly between nobles and commoners. The bonfires serve as festival sites where passions run uninhibited. Many childlings are conceived during Beltaine celebrations; conception at Beltaine is considered particularly favorable, since the feast honors fertility and new life.
- Highsummer Night, July 17th
- Staged to coincide with the hottest part of the summer, Highsummer Night epitomizes mirth and freedom. It also provides an excuse to gather Glamour from the "heat dreams" of mortals. During these celebrations, changelings are free to toy with any mortals they encounter.
- Pooka consider this festival their special holiday and refer to it as "Pranksgiving." They hold a competition among themselves to see who can play the most outrageous practical joke on a human. The winner gains tremendous prestige. ::Highsummer pranks sometimes turn malicious, even though jests which result in loss of life or serious injury are regarded as inartistic and tasteless. Tangled romances, mistaken identities, transformations and thefts of heroic proportions have greater appeal for pooka.
- Many Kithain weddings take place on Highsummer Night, though not so many as at Beltaine.
- Pennons, October 4th
- Pennons celebrates the martial prowess of the Kithain. Its festivities include jousts, mock combats, displays of weaponry and the slaying of chimerical beasts. The name of the festival derives from the custom of bestowing a king's pennons — flags marked with royal crests — upon the festival's champions, who have the right to fly them for one year.
- Artists, crafters and musicians also flock to Pennons, many seeking patronage from lords, who are likely to be generous on this festive occasion. Musicians find Pennons particularly rewarding. Troubadours compose songs on the spur of the moment celebrating the heroes of the various events, and stage their own competitions, along with storytellers, using words and music as weapons.
- Samhain, October 31st
- A counterpart to Beltaine, Samhain is the second of the two major Kithain festivals. On Samhain Eve, the wall between worlds grows thin. This is a solemn time for Kithain everywhere. It is a night to strain against the Mists, to part them and remember comrades who have fallen. It is a night to honor ancestors who have been lost as well as mortal companions who have contributed Glamour through their creations and deeds.
- Samhain also serves as a time for divination. In some courts, soothsayers perform auguries to learn the fate of lost friends and to divine messages about the coming year.
- Before the Shattering, Samhain marked the beginning of the Unseelie half of the year, when the Seelie rulers turned over their authority to their opposites until Beltaine. Now that transference of power resides only in the form of the Shadow Court's one-night reign. Samhain provides a chance for the Unseelie fae to deride everything they despise about Seelie society. Unseelie changelings hold mock tournaments and courts, making fun of the monarchy and privy council. Seelie changelings are encouraged to adopt their Unseelie personas for this one evening and experience the other side of their fae natures. Childlings often join with human children in trick-or-treating their way through neighborhoods, gathering Glamour from the real and imagined spookiness of the night and the enjoyment of their mortal companions.
Other Festivities Edit
In addition to the calendar festivals, Kithain also celebrate other special occasions. The Royal Lottery occurs whenever a monarch steps down, falls victim to Banality or dies a natural death, thus occasioning the choice of a successor. During this celehration, changelings come from far and wide to hear the dukes and duchesses proclaim candidates for the vacancy before the casting of lots by the nobility to choose who will rule. These events usually take place in the monarchs' glens.
Weddings between Kithain give rise to great festivities. While some Kithain marry for life, others marry for a lunar year (13 full moons) or a year and a day. These marriages celebrate life and love in the same way that the Beltaine and Highsummer ceremonies do.
A wake occurs upon the death of a Kithain. When a common changeling dies, her spirit is lost to the Dreaming for a time before reincarnating in a new mortal body. Only the sidhe do not return in this fashion; some believe that a sidhe's spirit is lost forever, while others hold that a deceased sidhe is reborn as a commoner. Wakes are crucial whenever a changeling dies from Banality or from cold iron. The loss must be addressed in some fashion to prevent Banality from gaining a stranglehold on all who knew the lost Kithain. Wakes are blatant denials of Banality, combining joy and sorrow in a tribute to the lost spirit. All distinctions between Seelie and Unseelie are put aside during wakes, as each Kithain remembers the deceased and strives to keep some part of her alive in the Dreaming. Unfortunately many sidhe refuse to attend wakes; they dislike being reminded of their own eventual death and the uncertainty that follows.
Oathtakings also provide an opportunity for Kithain to gather together, usually in small, private ceremonies. It is considered an honor to receive an invitation to a formal swearing of an oath and to act as a witness to the solemn pronouncement of a binding vow. The most common oaths that are celebrated in this fashion include oaths of fealty, questing and true love.