February 14th – The Festival of Correspondence

Have you ever received a beautiful letter, the kind from your mother on your first day at school, slipped into your lunch box? The kind from a secret admirer, an admission of passion? The kind from a lover, far away, sent with tear-drops and kisses? The kind from your child, with scruffy writing and crayon drawings? If you have you’ll truly understand today’s festival, The Festival of Correspondence; if not, perhaps you can learn.

Today is, obviously, a big day for the Buentoilliçan Postal Service (BPS); besides the extra traffic they also release a number of new stamps today, and many philatelists queue for hours to get their hands on early batches. As part of their remit, the BPS is required to deliver every letter posted before 12pm today, by 12am. Post boxes, usually well-used due to the Service’s extreme efficiency and speed, are stuffed to the brim, and numerous collections are taken throughout the day.

This efficiency was not always apparent, however; in 1851, five years after the Service’s privatisation, the BPS had cut so many staff that letters would take over a week to reach their recipients internally, and recipients in other cities could wait for months. Public discontent grew vast, and in a moment of panic, Parliament passed the Postal Speed Bill, which gave the Service two weeks to deliver all post (i.e. by the 14th of February), or the contract would be stripped and awarded to another company. When the BPS inevitably failed, the contract was awarded to another, and another, until it was finally re-municipalised eight years later. Due to underfunding, it still did not reach the target until 1879.

Today is popular with the romantically oriented, especially those who are still in the pursuit of their desire, yet this is not the only type of love celebrated today; different types of love are equally prized. Yet there is certainly some synergy between letters and romantic love, that’s perhaps difficult to pin down. Perhaps it is that moment of anticipation, of guessing the intent and the internal world, behind an exterior just waiting to be opened. Perhaps, as with romantic love, half the fun is in those early moments, when you turn the letter over in your hands, prolonging the moment.

Buentoillitants of all stripes will, today, send letters to all the loved ones in their lives. They will spend a great deal of time formulating them, whether this be in their mind beforehand, or in various hand-written iterations, the lost sisters of the final version tossed in the bin. Accompanying these frank words of admiration, respect and love are photographs or drawings of shared moments, of happy times passed.

The artist, Stephanie de Lomac, made a series of artworks which showcased the various letters she had received over the years from friends family and lovers. Perhaps most prominent in this collection are the letters from her grandfather, himself a famous painter. They are distinct from the others around them, with their beautiful spidery handwriting and stamps bought decades previously. In the letter he sent on her first year of art college at de Geers, he recounts a Correspondence Festival letter he received when he too attended the college:

‘She missed the morning post, I think. Back then there was a curfew on the dorms and the front doors got locked at 11pm, and I don’t know why but she decided not to deliver it until then, by hand. Thankfully for her the poor chap who lived in the room by the wall always kept his window open, to let everyone get in and out. You had to climb up on the bins to get on to the wall, but when you were up there you could step right into the dorm. She slipped it under my door. I know because I saw her shadow waiting outside, but I was too scared and didn’t open up. Not until much later. Remarkable woman, your grandmother.’

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Card Player’s Society Recruitment Day

  • The Festival of Dried Fruits