February 1st – The Festival of Kites

Today is the first day of the Gale of the Dead, a strong, and incongruously warm, north-easterly wind that sails through the City and into the Buentoille Bay. The Gale usually lasts for three days, increasing in strength as time goes on. Despite the rather fearsome name, which comes from the fact the wind seems to originate at the Ancestor Mountains, the Gale is known for its health-giving properties; many Buentoillitants report the alleviation of colds, joint complaints and even more complex issues today, and as such the windows of most hospitals will be left open.

As well an improvement in health, the Gale also seems to foster an improvement in the mood of the City’s inhabitants. Whether this is simply down to the unseasonably warm weather or some other benign influence is as yet unknown to modern science. The Buentoilliçan Journal of Atmospheric Science charts the change in the population’s mood; feelings of warmth to and consideration for others are commonly reported, and fond, painless memories of lost loved ones often surface.

Perhaps it is these memories of ancestors that causes Buentoillitants to focus their attention upwards, or perhaps it is just the beautiful clouds that sail so quickly through the light blue skies. Either way, kite-flying is a common occurrence today, before the winds become too strong. The City’s parks, outskirts and roofs are filled with families and lovers lounging on deckchairs, gazing up at the clouds and their handmade creations bobbing happily alongside them. Families have been using the same kites for many years running, often bearing the smiling faces of lost loved ones, although other common themes are suns and moons. Picnics are a popular accompaniment to kite-flying, and an aerial view of the parks would reveal a patchwork of blankets laid out on the grass.

Sailing is a popular pastime today, and hundreds of small leisure craft can be seen out in the Bay. As the Gale is so uni-directional it encourages the holding of numerous boat races, yet a casual bystander could hardly discern any competitive element to them; the sailors laugh good-naturedly regardless of the result of each race. In all the practice resembles children racing each other down adjacent slides; once one race has been completed they have their boats towed along the shore by a horse and line (due to the large volume of other boats in the Bay, tacking into the wind quickly becomes dangerous), ready to begin the race once more.

Unlike many other festivals, The Festival of Kites has no organising committee, no advertising or official status. It emerges naturally each year, having been seemingly forgotten about until the first licks of warm wind jostle the washing hanging between Buentoille’s houses. In the following days it is too dangerous to fly kites, and at the end of the third day windows are barred and shuttered, anything that could fly away brought inside. Even the birds retreat to their nests, when before they zoomed joyfully through the skies.

These preparations do not seem to be accompanied by the anxiety you might expect, but are carried out by most with a sense of serenity, even as forgotten washing is torn from the line and thrown into the Bay. At the end of the third day it begins to rain heavily, and Buentoillitants sit inside, listening contentedly to the drumming on their roofs. As night settles in it is as if someone had turned off a switch; the Gale of the Dead ends, and a quiet like no other settles on the City.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Joy Warden’s Festival of Bubble Blowing