December 3rd – The Night of the Swelling Moon

Tonight the full moon will appear much larger and brighter than normal. This is a fairly simple phenomenon to explain: it’s physically closer to the Earth than at other times of the year when it was full. The moon’s orbit is not a perfect circle, and so upon each of the twenty seven days of the cycle it resides a different distance from the Earth. The distance it’s at tonight is called the perigee, and it is at this time that the tides will show the greatest variation (except of course for the Day of the Lowest Tide). Whilst the moon is directly above, the tides will be at their highest, and marginally higher than a normal high tide. It is perhaps this ‘swelling’ of the oceans that caused the folklorish associations that today holds.

The link might not immediately seem clear, but tonight there will be large amounts of gifts donated to the surgeons at all the medical centres across Buentoille today. This is partly in recognition of the general good work that they do, but also because they will be far more busy tonight than on any other night of the year. Normally, routine surgeries are carried out during the day, when the surgeons are naturally more awake, and even some more urgent operations are postponed until daylight hours. Yet for the past few weeks, many patients have opted to postpone their operations until tonight, out of a (probably misguided) belief that it will grant them good luck.

This renegotiation of timings is not something that’s encouraged by the MHS, nor is it tolerated in many instances where it would pose a risk to the patient by causing unnecessary delay, or to other potential emergency patients by causing services to near capacity. Yet for some routine surgeries, the renegotiation is allowed on the basis that it will decrease the patient’s stress levels and lead to more positive outcomes. The MHS is very clear that there is no evidence that the ‘Swelling Moon’ leads to more successful surgery, that this is unsubstantiated folklore, and doctors will always attempt to explain this to any patient before they commit to any scheduling of surgery outside of normal hours. If you were in the City in the past few weeks you likely saw a number of official posters and leaflets on building-sides and trains attempting to educate the Buentoilliçan population about these facts.

The source of the misinformation that the MHS simultaneously fights against and begrudgingly accommodates can be traced back to the 15th century, hardly the highest point of medical skill and knowledge, so it is difficult to pinpoint quite why the idea has remained so persistent. Surgeons at the time would operate under the light of a Swelling Moon in the belief that it would ‘swell’ any malignant areas, making them more obvious and therefore easier to excise. The idea is also linked to bloodletting, as swelling indicated that the ‘unpure’ blood was being brought to the surface. The first mention of this entirely fictional phenomenon seems to be the works of Deirach Temmiule, a charlatan who somehow duped his way to being the monarch’s head physician, a feat which probably says more about the state of the profession at that point than Temmiule’s deceptive skillset. Since then, the idea seems to have just been repeated, sometimes verbatim, with little analysis or criticism until modern times.

Despite their strong stance on the issue, the MHS treats the organisation of tonight’s operations with a particular seriousness and care, and as a result the rate of complications and the like may actually go down. A whole reserve force of surgeons volunteer to work extra hours to ensure the success of the night, and they are appropriately rewarded by the public. All donations made to each medical centre must be anonymised or they will be turned away, as there can be no implication of preferential treatment for payment of any kind. Portions of home-cooked food are a popular gift, along with alcohol and other consumables like candles and flowers. The idea isn’t to financially enrich the surgeons, but to show appreciation for their vital work. Whilst most of the gifts are aimed at surgeons, there is usually more than they can eat, drink and carry donated, and so the gifts tend to be shared fairly out amongst the other medical professionals and staff as well.

Of course, there are other folklorish associations with this ‘swelling’, and it is to nobody’s surprise that the birthrate spikes nine months after each Swelling Moon. Again, there’s no known mechanism via which the moon affects human physiognomy tonight to lead to these results; the effects on libido are presumably due to the romantic nature of a larger, brighter moon, and a healthy dosage of that ever-useful medicine: the placebo.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Singing Wrights
  • The Festival of the Third Machinist
  • Terrible Terrible Day