February 5th – A Day to Welcome Guests

The observant or inquisitive visitor to Buentoille may have noticed that, especially in the central and western districts, there are a number of very small doors at the base of many buildings. This is usually the case with the older constructions, but some newer buildings added them as a concession to tradition. It is through these doors that, according to Buentoilliçan tradition, the Guests arrive. Today, small offerings will be left at the foot of these doors, a welcoming gift for the Guests.

The Guests feature frequently in Buentoilliçan folk stories and myth, where they feature variously as household helpers, arcane merchants and, particularly in the east, as dangerous trickster figures. Whilst gifts are left throughout the year, especially this month, they are primarily associated with the 5th of February because of Lettiga and the Guest, a folk tale that is commonly read to children at bedtime.

In the story, Lettiga, the protagonist, is a small orphan girl who is kept as a cook’s helper in a home which used to belong to her mother before her debts got the better of their family. February is generally considered a singular month, associated with the occult, spirits and daemons (perhaps because of its strange number of days), so it was on this month that the child decided to draw a small door beneath her bed with which to summon a Guest that would help her. For four nights, she waited, and though she tried to stay up until a quarter to midnight to let the Guest in, she always fell asleep, and only heard its knocking in her dreams. On the fifth day, February the 5th, she had an idea; she cut off the wallpaper the door was painted onto, wrote ‘come in, welcome Guest’ on the back of the paper, and then stuck it back to the wall. That night she awoke to find a little Guest sitting at the foot of her bed, chewing contentedly on the small piece of bread she had left for it.

The doors across the City are placed outside, because this way it is thought that the Guests do not need permission to enter, as the doors open outside. The doors are often accompanied by a small set of steps and a little porch, in an attempt to preserve the gifts and notes that are left there for the Guests. Some doors, however, are merely scratches into the stucco, or a few lines of paint; this is thought to equally suffice. These gifts are usually left by children, although many adults have been known to participate, a practice that is considered extremely foolhardy by eastern Buentoillitants. In eastern Buentoilliçan folk stories the Guests are capricious beings who have a fondness for children, as they share many traits (a love for tricks and japes, fragile feelings, a smallness of stature, a seeming lack of responsibility and a certain arbitrary cruelty), but who level disdain at adults and their ‘boring’ tendency to be sensible. In many tales, adults attempt to contact the Guests and suffer dire consequences.

Both sides of the City share stories about the Guests acting as little merchants, traders between their strange otherworld and ours. The notes left beneath gifts usually ask the guests the switch them for some otherworldly bauble. As such children often leave old, unwanted toys by the doors, in the hope that they will be exchanged for new ones the next day. The Guests will supposedly replace the item with something equal in value, but their perception of value is famously eccentric; in one story a child leaves a cheap straw doll and is rewarded with a basket of rubies, in another a rich child steals their father’s favourite gold watch, and it is switched for a single leaf.

Keeping a door inside is generally thought to be dangerous, but that doesn’t mean it is unheard of. In a 1659 copy of the Buentoilliçan Mysticke there is report on the mysterious death of a local family. Apparently, they had made a door inside their home on a chalk board, and then rubbed it away when the Guest entered, attempting to trap it and keep it as a household protector spirit. Throughout the day the Guest’s little body became increasingly weak and withered, until it died the following night at a quarter to midnight. Instead of a protector spirit, the Guest’s spirit was one of vengeance

Lettiga’s experience with her Guest went much more favourably. It brought her a knife from the otherworld, with which she could produce meals so delicious and moreish that her new masters would give anything to learn the secret, and were soon in debt to her. When she grew up she turned the home into a famous restaurant, and always left a small portion of the day’s best dish by the little door in her former bedroom.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Day of Door Warding

  • The Streetlamp Commissioner’s Swearing In Party