February 20th – Puffball Day

For the last week or so, children have been out in the fields and forests that surround the City, collecting winter puffballs. These are generally smaller than the autumnal varieties, but tend to create a much larger cloud of spores when compressed. The children then carefully store these in a special room of the headquarters of The Guild of Children. In this room they are stored in egg crates to reduce movement, and dried out. In this process, the balls turn from a pure white to a woody brown, and little openings appear at their tops.

This process of storage was invented by one of the first leaders of the Children’s Guild, Ingar Kernalson, who was born on this day, 1789. On his fifteenth birthday, the final day of his membership of the Guild, a huge puffball stomping festival was organised for the teenager, as a going away present. Due to an unfortunate accident Kernalson had lost his parents at a young age, and inherited their house, which he decided to use as the headquarters, and renamed Children’s House. After he turned fifteen he allowed the Guild to continue to use the space, and when he turned eighteen he officially gave the Guild the deed to the building.

When the openings appear at the top of the puffballs, they are carefully sealed with wax, and the drying process continues. Today the puffballs are transported, extremely carefully, to Matriarch’s Plaza, where they are laid out in an enormous square. Around this square, hundreds of children eagerly gather, and from them the ‘Chief Puffer’ is elected. This child carefully makes their way to the centre of the square through a clear path. The Chief Puffer has a small basket of puffballs which they place behind them, filling up the empty space. At the centre of the square is the largest puffball; the Chief Puffer stands over it, and the anticipation is palpable. The other children are poised around the edge of the square, each wearing a protective mask. The Chief Puffer slowly bends their knees, then jumps into the air, coming down on the puffball with an explosion of spores.

There is a general feeling of disdain towards the festival from older members of society, especially from the Guild of Culinary Enthusiasts, who regularly compete with the children to pick the most puffballs which they consider a great delicacy when cooked with asparagus and garlic. When the festival is over they gather up as many spores as possible with specialised vacuum cleaners, and distribute them over the woodlands and fields beyond the City.

Because the puffballs have been sealed with wax they explode with some violence, sending the spores far and wide in a great brown explosion. One the Chief Puffer has stomped on the central mushroom, the other children run into the square, jumping and stomping with glee. They shouts and excited screams can be heard for miles, and the spore cloud often reaches above the surrounding buildings. After the festival children are banned from public transport as they leave little brown clouds in their wake.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Puffball Eating Party & Spore Distribution Festival

  • Nick Heather’s Festival of the Average Person