In the Old World, there are times of the year where despite what happens, celebrations are in order. The Winter Solstice/Later Winter is no exception, here are some of the celebrations some kingdoms goe through.
Kingdom of Draioch
Despite the constant dreariness of the nation, the Kingdom of Draioch celebrates the end of the year with a celebration called Dochas, which means Celebration of Hope. It began with a clan lord many years ago who saw his people suffering while he lived in a somewhat comfortable life, he decided that he would dress up to disguise himself and deliver gifts as a man named Calen. When the people caught on to this, they assumed it was a gift from the spirits of the land to embolden them for the year to come and to give them hope.
The tradition caught on throughout the country. With large gift-giving ceremonies where people give what gifts they can give to fellow townsfolk gifts, parents save up what little they can throughout the year to give their children gifts. More traditions and songs have arisen from the Dochas Day, including a large feast of what little the town can gather together, and they feast together. Children try to spread the holiday cheer by singing Dochas songs.
With anything in Draioch, not all are happy, and there is one Dochas tale that it is dangerous. It is said that a malevolent spirit creature of jealousy, hate and suffering rose out of the happiness created by Dochas, seeing to kidnap children and cause mischief throughout the land. The tale goes that Calen defeated this creature, called Diabhail, and banished it. Parents still try to scare their children, saying that if they are bad during the year, Calen or them will not bring them gifts, and instead Diabhail will come to take them away.
Iron Empire of Durgheim
In the Iron Empire, the religion is the state, and it is no difference during the times of “Holidays” around the world. As the worship of any religion other than the Emperor or the Iron Law is illegal, there are no public holidays. When the entire world seems to be celebrating, the Iron Empire celebrates what it values the most, it’s integrity, it’s military and the Emperor.
Large military parades displaying the vast might of what they consider to be the most powerful military on the face of the planet throughout the streets of the capital. People line up to salute and witness the military might on display.
However, it is rumored that men who have returned from the Draioch front may have spread the holiday of Dochas to some of their families, and some choose to celebrate this holiday in secret, under the threat of punishment under the Iron Law.
Sultanate of Sahir
In the deserts of Sahir, it only gets colder during the winter time at night. In Sahir, worship of Brume is the most common, and the Winter Solstice is no exception. During this time they celebrate a festival known as the Festival of Shadows. During the time where the moonlight is the strongest, in which no torches or lights are needed, a massive festival is held in celebration of the goddess Brume, and her protection of the nation in the coming year.
It is also a celebration of victory, as it as this time of the year in which the Sultanate recovered and beat back the Orcish hordes that had united, and had almost burned the entire nation to the ground.
Some of the practices during this festival are things such as people burying and hiding gifts and things for people to find in a massive hunt, sponsored by the Sultan and his family. Traditional clothing is cast aside for this nighttime festival in favor of dark-colored clothing and masks of black and blue. The celebrations go into the dawn when the sun begins to illuminate again.
When Gheima, the Crown of Winter, takes the Throne the Eternal Woad is enveloped by an eerie stillness. The slightest noise echoes through the forest itself produce in every direction, disturbing snow drifts and sending small clouds of white birds flitting through the leaves. During the Winter Throne ceremony, held on the first full moon after the first snow has fallen, the Fae gather patiently around the Throne of Thorns awaiting the Bell of Lamentation to be rung to start off the Hunt of Winter’s Blessing.
Once the Bell of Lamentation has been stuck every Fae runs into the dark of the winter’s forest, illuminated by moonlight, to hunt down the great white stag, said to be the only one born to the Eternal Woad each year. After the stag is slain, the Fae who vanquished it tears out the beast’s heart and carries both stag and heart back to the Throne of Thorns to present the community with the body and the heart to Crown Gheima, which she then devours.
The conclusion of this ritual causes the Great Oak to open, offering its safety and refuge for all the Fae during the harsh winter. A grand feast of venison, sweetbreads, and pomegranates is had, with music ringing out through the night. When the first ray of sunlight hits the trees the Fae retreat onto the Oak tree, only coming out to gather food, enact the Blood Tithe and guard the grove in shifts.
The Shire of Barleybuck
The Great Snooze is perhaps the laziest of festivals and the time for the Bobbins give each other gifts of wool for comfort, they knit big hat and large sweaters to fall asleep in. They have huge get-togethers where they hang out by fires and tell stories until they fall asleep. No work is done during this month. Most Bobbins use this time to catch up on the sleep that is missed during their nights of partying throughout the year.
Kingdom of Azarak
Normally, this time of the year, the Dwarves would be celebrating the coming New Year, in which they would take rest for the toils of the year, and pray to Mur-Azarak for a bountiful year ahead. They would also pray to him to relieve them of any transgressions they have committed of course of the year, and each family would leave offerings of crafts out at a shrine as a tribute.
However, after the fall of Old Azarak, it is a solemn time. It is the first year in which they are a conflicted people without a true homeland or holy land. They are above ground and not surrounded by the beautiful carved Azarak. King Ironbreaker decreed that it would also be known as Remembrance Day and that all who had deceased in the fall of Azarak would be remembered. Families will be traveling to the outside of Azarak which is now closed up and destroyed, to pray for their loved ones who have died. In untraditional Dwarven fashion, it has become acceptable to show great emotions this day out of respect for the dead. To mark the beginning of the day, a Dwarven high priest blows a horn made from a Under-Ram, a rare animal that was only found underground.
Despite all this, the Dwarven people will attempt to be hopeful, and look forward to the next year. They will spend much of their time with their closest family, as the Dwarven people believe that in trying times, the family becomes even more important than it already is. They will pray to be able to return to their homeland, and that their family and friends will be avenged one day.
Magocracy of Valsan
The Magocracy around this time of year is a strange time, as it is a mix of celebration and study. During this time of the year, certain stars are more visible than others, and the moon itself becomes much more visible. Astronomers around the nation are in the constant study of the stars and the moon, as it is the best chance they will get during the entire year.
As for celebrations, the Magocracy is a collection over the years of magically talented individuals from around the world of Erolan, therefore the culture of the Magocracy is a melting pot. Most of the celebrations sans a few can be found here, and even the ones that seem very odd or out of place can be found being practiced in some limited way.
There is one unique festival to the Magocracy however, and that is a celebration of its magical talent. A massive light display throughout the city is shown, and decorations made of pure magical illusions. At the turn of the new year, a fireworks display like no other across the world takes place, with the best wizards at their craft giving a massive show, showing the foundation of the Magocracy, some of the famous Arcane Joust battles in the past, and other stories.
Grand Caravan of Bhutaar
The new year and holiday celebrations in Bhutaar are simple, and the celebration is called the Gathering of the Moon. It is here that they celebrate the fulfillment of another circle of life, the duality of Stalk and Solace. As the Orcs celebrate They burn candles of wax and incense at their shrines of Solace.
It is also a celebration of another peaceful year by the Orcs themselves, a common greeting to each other is “Are you living peacefully?”. In traditional Orc fashion, large gatherings to celebrate the new year, with music and art take place. To celebrate the circle of life, the hunters in the Caravan go out early in the morning to bring in a vast amount of wildlife to feed the massive feast called the Feast of Bituun.
Lastly, all debts and personal grievances are usually settled and repaid on this day, so that the new year can begin peacefully, gracefully, and a good start to the new cycle.
Empire of Yomi
Never missing an opportunity to celebrate, the people of Yomi always make sure that if there’s even the slightest reason: throw a festival. During the coldest months of the year, the citizens celebrate their love for nature by helping the larger animals prepare for hibernation. In the beginning of the season, they leave large offerings of fruits and fish for the woodland animals as well as each other. In Yomi, in order to feel connected with nature, the citizens also partake in the “preparation for hibernation” by gorging themselves before the first frost during a week-long festival called Shokuji to Suimin. During which they partake in 8 large meals a day for 6 days, and on the seventh day they sleep for the entire day.
Nearing the end of the cold season, many citizens of Yomi celebrate a Holiday known as the Gifting in which they exchange presents with friends and family. Traditionally, the bigger and better the present is the more thoughtful and kind you are and so it becomes a competition amongst groups to see who gives the best gift. If a person does not like a gift they receive the person who gifted it to them is forced to give up their own gift and offer it to Solace as repentance for poor gift giving.
Finally, on the last day of the year, the citizens of Yomi hold their largest festival to welcome the new year and pray for a happy and healthy new one. In addition, they believe that during this time Solace herself visits them in disguise to check on them. Therefore, this festival known as Shin’nen is exceptionally grandiose. The entirety of the capital is decorated in lights, with fresh berry inlaid wreaths hanging on every door to welcome nature into their homes. In the center square of the capital the main events take place such as plays, dances, and music all performed in honor of Solace. The entirety of the square is surrounded by food and drink, and every citizen is in attendance. At the end of the celebration as the first light of the new year is cast over them, the royal family releases a display of their magical talents and light up the sky with colorful lights until the sun outshines them.
Kingdom of Pheia
The Kingdom of Pheia isn’t well known for the celebrations and instead generally do not celebrate many Holidays. One of the few exceptions to this is the day of New Life on the second to last day of the year in which the citizens all leave the city (except for the guards and royalty) to plant new seeds and tend to the coral reefs. Each year they journey farther and farther away, completely surrounding their city with enormous and lush underwater forests.
Generally speaking, Pheia does not specifically worship any God. Although they love and respect Pith, they believe that he would not wish them to worship him and offer him gifts. In respect for this, the royalty of Pheia break tradition and give gifts to the citizens instead of the other way around. On this day, the final day of the year, all of Pheia gathers to sing songs in praise of their Kingdom, Pith’s sacrifice, and the reverence of the deep, beautiful, mysterious and unknown depths of their ocean home. The citizens spend the entire day together gathered around the King’s Castle, exchanging and trading gifts as they share meals and drink with one another.