Unless you are visiting the City too see a friend, you are unlikely to see much of today’s festival. Some of the eastern family hotels tend to participate, so if you aren’t staying in one, you may wish to nose around a lobby or two. Most of the festivities, however, will occur within the homes of Buentoillitants, which will be wreathed in foliage; evergreen leaves are sewn together in luscious wall hangings, potted ferns are placed on every spare surface, yew and juniper branches are hung over doorways, jammed into umbrella stands, placed on mantelpieces, and around bannisters ivy is wound. Today the outside comes indoors.
The festival is thought to originate from Escotolatian tradition, perhaps as a form of worship for the god of evergreen plants, Yigi. The year-round verdurousness of these plants was a source of fascination for the tribes-people, and they sought to imbue some measure of this life into their lives. Plants would be placed in a prayer room for those months when the weather kept folk indoors. By doing so, the Escotolation people would still be able to commune with Yigi, without going to their glades or ritual clearings. This was especially useful for youngest and eldest members of the community who were less likely to bear bad conditions.
As the old gods quietly crept out of every day life, and as people built more and more walls around themselves, the practice began to lose its religious meaning, and became tradition instead. One of those things you do because your mother and her mother before did it, and it has happened for so long that, well, it would be a shame if we stopped doing it now, wouldn’t it? Besides, the festival does have its benefits; a recent study showed that the addition of green foliage to a home during the winter months can actually lengthen a persons life by a matter of days, because of the stress reduction that seeing all the green causes. Families also tend to bond well gathering their decorations.
As the City grew, the practice of bringing the outside inside, which tended to occur across the winter (although, as juniper is thought to cast out bad spirits, February with its occult associations was a very popular time for it), was reduced down to a single day of foliage collection, and given official festival status, in an attempt to avoid environmental devastation. The decorations are kept up for at least a week, or until they wither and become unsightly. Because of the extreme toxicity of yew seeds the festival is a popular setting for murder mystery novels, and has become associated in the west of Buentoille with poisons and witches potions.
In his autobiographical novel, Buentoilliçan Days, Ben Umpman laments the distrust felt in the west of the City towards the festival: ‘When I was about thirteen I had a girlfriend (the kind you are too scared to kiss) called Aiya who’s parents were proper easterners, they made sure to celebrate all the eastern festivals, they were vegans, they went in for the whole thing. Their grandmother lived with them in the house, too, she used to make these delicious peregs for me every time I visited. I came with them, one day, when they went to gather branches and the like for that festival where they bring the outside inside, and it was one of the happiest days of my life. I remember Aiya and her grandmother picking leaves off a holly bush, careful as they could, their breath forming in little clouds. They looked so peaceful and just… right I suppose. There was a moment when Aiya’s grandmother looked down at her and smiled a quiet smile, and I remember thinking “I wish I knew my grandma like that.” I’ve never understood why westerners are so suspicious of that festival.’
Other festivals happening today:
The Scallop Eaters’ Festival
The Festival of the Adventurous Kitten