So here we are. We’ve entered that time of year again. The time of Christmas season celebrations, followed by New Year revelries (two of the world’s most celebrated festivals).
There’s no denying the integral part festivals play in the societies and cultures of the world. Whether a social expression of religious significance, the seed of historical remembrance, or simply a celebrated event tailored to specific cultures, festivals mark our lives with an inspiring permanence.
Festivals hold a similar sway in the kingdoms and cultures of my fictional world, Valadae, as well. And, without the superficial flamboyance and often degrading bulk of commercialism found in the societies of our present world, the festivals of Valadae remain close to their origins of spiritual and event-inspired connotations and root meanings.
Considering the number of sentient creature-kinds that celebrate various festivals throughout the cycle of seasons, it would take far too long to delve into the details of the numerous celebratory events, and their traditions. So instead, I’ll indulge you—the curious reader—with some insights into the two festivals most universally celebrated by Valdalians at this time of year (in line with our Christmas, and New Year).
Span Desnen (the ‘closure/ completion of this given cycle of seasons’) is one of the most universally celebrated festivals in Valadae. Held at the end of the cycle (the Valadilian term for ‘year’), in Ishtholi, the season of closing (the equivalent to our ‘Winter’) the festival begins on the first quarter moon evening of Meloss.
The festival advents with a special ceremony called yen’sa, or the Release of Wishes, which involves the symbolic letting go of past grievances and the seeding of hopes for the next cycle of seasons.
Carving/ purchasing two carved figurines (usually in the shape of a seed and a bird—things figuratively synonymous with hope/ potential, and emotional release/ freedom), an individual will speak over the bird effigy, and vent out all their pains, grievances, hurts and regrets (an emblematic transfer from soul to offering). They will then speak over the seed, expressing all their hopes and desires and positive intentions for the next cycle of seasons.
Either gathering with family, friends or community, individuals then throw their wooden bird carvings into a communal pyre (symbolically cleansing their negative inclinations by burning their sealed words to ash and releasing them to the wind), and then find a place in the soil and ‘plant’ their wooden seeds (a physical act to express the hopes of the heart).
After the evening of yen’sa comes thirteen days of celebrations, honouring the thirteen fulons that complete a cycle (‘year’). Activities differ depending on creature-kind customs and location, but each of the fulons are assigned to a day (always in order), and each of the activities and feasts are themed around the season celebrated.
Fireworks are popular, as is ice-sculpting and tree-decorating (ice and snow events obviously restricted to regions that accommodate such weather).
On the thirteenth evening, to conclude the Span Desnen celebrations, public chants are held, where families and individuals can gather and sing the songs of tradition, as well as new odes inspired by the cycle’s notable events (battles, natural disasters, the death of a ruler, the great deed of an individual etc.)
Out of all the festivals in Valadae, Span Desnen is the longest-running and most anticipated.
FESTIVAL OF THE MAKING
Another of Valadae’s most celebrated festivals, and arguably the one steeped heaviest in spiritual significance is the Festival of The Making.
The festival marks the first span of the new cycle, and celebrates the birth of new beginnings, and—in accordance with Valadae’s prevalent religious views—the acknowledgement and celebration of the Maker, and the creation of all things.
As one would assume, the festival starts on the first day of Orpious (the fulon of Awakening), and is celebrated over an eight day period, in representation of the eight Words the Maker spoke which formed all things: Light, Space, Motion, Sound, Heat, Colour, Form, and Manna (manna being the breath of the Maker, also known as the Three Strands).
While more linear in activities and traditions than Span Desnen, this festival is a notable rival when it comes to visual splendours. Music and colour play an essential role in the celebrations; individuals don themselves in costumes and colours that represent the Words, and will often participate in re-tellings of The Making, through organised interpretive dance routines and/ or choirs.
Children, equipped with streamer-spangled kites, run around merrily, pretending to be the Threads of Manna that spread life into the world, and papery prayer lanterns light the night skies and rivers, bearing away the prayers, praises and ponderings of those wishing to give their thoughts a more physical expression.
The festival ends on the day marking the creation of the Third Strand (the Strand who fell to pride and became Corruption), where individuals dress or accessorize in red (a reminder that Corruption is in all), and set up effigies covered in red streamers on pyres, ready to burn them with white fire at the setting of the sun (to demonstrate that while Corruption is in all, it will never overcome the cleansing power the other Strands).
In short, the Festival of The Making highlights Valadae’s recognition of the wonders of creation, the influence of corruption, and the power of redemption.
Make sure to take the time to consider and appreciate the true heart and soul of Christmas, this very special annual ‘festival’ of ours. After all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! 😉