January 10th – The Eating of the Seeds

For the Most Holy Church of the Magnificent Sunflower, today is one of the most anticipated days in the calendar. Acolytes will have spent many days preparing magnificent-sunflower-based foods, including breads, spreads, snacks and rhine (a curious type of beer made from magnificent sunflower meal – the leftover by-product from oil production), which will be consumed today, in the main hall of their church.

However, the consumption of these foods is ancillary to the main event; the tasting of last years’ harvest. The kernels are stored in complete darkness since the harvesting in late August, and are guaranteed to have reached full maturity by January 10th, regardless of the exact day they were harvested. Grandmaster Sun will be the first to taste the previous year’s bounty, and, along with the other members of the First Seed, he will decide the level of vintage and esteem the harvest should receive. Amongst other things, this will decide whether any of the magnificent sunflower seeds are replanted in the late spring.

The magnificent sunflower is a particular variety of sunflower which is renowned for its mild hallucinogenic properties, and reputed numerous health benefits. Members of the Church report visions of angels dressed only in sunflower petals, of animated kernels, and typically an enormous sense of well-being and enlightenment. It is also claimed that a particular chemical in the seed enables humans to ‘perceive our glorious and invisible masters, the Heliophene, who walk amongst us.’ Unfortunately, access to the seeds is tightly controlled by the Church, and they have not permitted access for scientific testing to verify these claims.

The magnificent sunflower is a smallish flower, compared to its commercial cousins, and would not be particularly easily distinguishable from many wild varieties, except for the fact that the head tends not to follow the sun, but instead roves around in seemingly random directions. According to the Church, the flowers move in response to the presence of nearby Heliophenes.

According to Grandmaster Sun (birth name Indorus Finch), he found the dried seeds in an ancient, derelict temple, whilst on an expedition to the Summer Isles. There he apparently also found a number of religious texts which he subsequently translated, and which formed the foundation for the Most Holy Church of the Magnificent Sunflower. Whilst there is evidence that Sun travelled to the archipelago in the early 60s, the Grandmaster has been unwilling to produce these documents for scholarly study, citing their fragility. Critics of the Church point out that the Grandmaster’s visit there was as part of his former employment at Biojohnsoncorp as an expeditionary geneticist, and allege that he engineered the variety of sunflower in their labs. It is important to remember that this is unproven speculation, and critics have yet to produce any evidence that Grandmaster Sun is lying.


Other festivals happening today:

  • Grammar Is Important Festival
  • The Festival of Ark Remembrance

 

January 9th – The Festival of Distant Light

The Festival of Distant Light was founded in 1986 as a response to the ever-increasing levels of light pollution in Buentoille. Various ideas for the festival’s form were put forward at the Council of Logistics’ AGM. The minutes from the meeting also note a sit-in protest by the Guild of Tallow and Wax Merchants (the Guild’s modern membership encompasses sellers of all forms of lighting appliance, but they have kept the name for tradition’s sake), who wished to register their discontent with the entire discussion.

Out of the thirty proposals – ranging from bussing the City’s children out to the countryside once a month, to banning all electric lights – the winning solution was to have one night a year when no man-made lighting would be permitted in the City. This serendipitously coincided with the Union of Lamplighters’ new demands for their own yearly day of rest.

The blackout is enforced by a special group (The Brigade of Darkness) set up for the purpose, voted in at the AGM every year. There are usually attempts to sabotage the festival by members of the Cult of the Eternal Flame, who feel that their religious rights are being trampled upon, especially as the Eternal Flame itself was (they believe) made by divine, rather than human, hands. Due to a number of violent scuffles between the Brigade and cultists, special consideration has been made for them in the form of blackout blinds. However, there are still attempts to mar the festival, including the 1999 burning of the ancient Sien Pyre (a monument to the last minute pardoning of Lady de Sien, who had been accused of witchcraft in 1441). Every year the Cult of the Eternal Flame will also unsuccessfully attempt to have their candidate elected to the Brigade of Darkness.

Deckchairs and blankets are placed about the City by the Brigade, for the maximum enjoyment of the stars. Extensive cloud seeding occurs before the festival to increase the chances of clear skies, but unfortunately it is not always successful. Assuming that conditions are right, the City’s five parks are usually bustling with people from five onwards; Revolution Park is generally considered the best spot, as the lake provides a beautiful mirror to the stars. A great amount of unlicensed mulled wine stands tend to pop up in the parks tonight, and violinists play plaintive melodies to the crowds.

Visitors to the City should bear in mind that all non-foot traffic (besides emergency vehicles) is prohibited tonight.


Other festivals happening today:

  • Borscht Appreciation Day
  • Terry’s Funk Fiasco
  • The Cult of the Eternal Flame’s Day of Discontent

January 8th – The Union of Quilters and Allied Workers Display Day

The Union of Quilters and Allied Workers (UQAW) is the oldest surviving union in Buentoille, and almost every Buentoillitant family contains at least one member. However, the union has moved well beyond its initial purpose of uniting quilt workers and working for improvements in their conditions and pay.

In the late sixteenth century the quilting industry went from being a huge part of the Buentoilliçan economy to being essentially worthless. The largest purchasers of Buentoilliçan quilts had been the nearby cities of Litancha, Catrosondia and Helmuud’s Hill, but with the introduction of the Seven Cities Trading Company and the resulting opening of the Tibizian Straits, this trade all but dried up. Around thirty percent of Buentoillitants were employed in the quilting industries at the time, so the union had to take drastic action.

The internal market for quilts at the time was weak, as the skills were so widespread, but the artistic value of the industry was recognised by the parliament of the time, especially as it made use of otherwise-worthless scraps from the tailoring and haberdashery industries. Under pressure from the union, Parliament passed the 1589 Quilt Workers Relief Act, wherein every member of UQAW was guaranteed a small weekly wage, as long as they spent the entire year producing under seven individual works of exquisite artistic quality. This process was initially overseen by the odious Quilting Standards Officers (called ‘Snifters’ by the quilters, due to their frustrating propensity to turn up their snotty middle-class noses at the product of the quilters’ labour), but after several mysterious disappearances no volunteers could be found, and this task was taken up by UQAW appointees.

Eventually, as other industries filled the gap left by the quilting industries’ departure, the monthly stipend provided by parliament was not increased with inflation, and therefore the time requirements to be a member of UQAW decreased with it. Eventually, this led to the current state of affairs, where the (now primarily ceremonial) stipend is paid to all union members today, on Display Day, where almost every household hangs out their creations for all the City to see. Quilting has now achieved the status of high art in Buentoilliçan society, and the spectacle is quite something to behold.

Whilst the galleries will do their part in displaying a number of well-known quilt artists, there is no match for the spectacle available for free at The Warrens on the south side, where walls, windows, washing lines and walkways are sure to be thronging with quilts, both traditional and highly innovative in style.


Other festivals happening today:

  • James de Barth’s Festival of True High Culture
  • The Maze Is Open
  • Buentoilliçan Internationalist Recognition Day
  • Buentoilliçan Film Festival

January 7th – King Dunmonii’s Grand Excursion

There is a large volume of folklore surrounding the genesis of this festival, the central story of which being variously called ‘The King and the Faerie’, ‘Dunmonii’s Fruit’, and many other variations upon that theme. Whilst the scholars from Benetek and de Geers have a long-running argument over whether the Ethlebert or Homfrey version of the story came first, both have the same essential story at their heart:

King Dunmonii (one of the more tyrannical Buentoilliçan kings in his early reign, Dunmonii converted to the Chastise Church toward the end of his life, repenting his sins), was visited by a faerie in his bed chamber, early in the morning of the Seventh of January. It gave the King two small red berries, saying ‘One you shall eat and one you must bury, before the day is out, or a great trouble shall befall you.’ The King was a gluttonous and stubborn man; he ate the first berry, and then, finding it to be extremely delicious he proclaimed ‘I do not believe in faeries!’ and ate the second as well.

Later that day, the King went out hunting in the woods to the east of the City. There he was beset upon by a group of bandits and died in the snow along with his entourage. In the following days a great blizzard raged, and the Kings body was not found for many weeks. By the time the snows had melted, a small tree was found growing out of his stomach, from which his body could not be dislodged. The next year the whole city set out to honour his passing at the very same tree, and saw that it was covered in hundreds of the small red berries, like drops of blood. Each person took two berries, eating one and planting another before the day was out.

The modern festival proceeds from this myth. Today, hundreds of people will leave the City through The Traitor’s Gate and walk out into the countryside on a long and beautiful route to what is now called Dunmonii Wood, after the amount of Dunmonii trees therein. The route is littered with these trees, and from them each walker takes two berries, one which they eat there and then, and one which they bury. It is considered bad luck to take any more than this, but many do nonetheless, as the berries are exceptionally tasty.

The Dunmonii tree is a very short-lived tree, surviving only a few years before it withers and dies, yet it’s growth is prodigious, with many recorded specimens being well over ten foot tall, and stout as an ancient oak. As a result the tree has been the subject of sustained scientific attention for many years. The berries seem to appear overnight, and only last for one day; after this they turn brown, drop from the tree and become highly toxic. No successful methods of preservation have yet been found.


Other festivals happening today:

  • Regent June’s Dunmonii Pie Eating Competition
  • Flautists’ Circle Party Day

January 6th – Helen Obravey’s Day

Helen Obravey was a visionary musician and philosopher, or as she liked to describe herself, a ‘secular priestess’, who was born 1856 and died 1923.

Undoubtedly her most famous work to this date is ‘When the Birds Return’, a beautiful choral piece, originally accompanied by piano. It was commissioned by the Council of Logistics as the Buentoilliçan Anthem, in the first year after the revolution. According to Obravey it describes the feelings she had as the Gablelarks finally returned to their roosts, after they had fled the noise of fighting during the civil war.

Yet Obravey was a national icon well into monarchic times, first rising to fame with ‘Under the Bakery’s Eaves, Love Softly Grows’. This extract from an article in the Gentleman’s Herald gives us some insight into how the song was received:

All this week the most fantastic spectacles have been occurring on the streets of this great City. I hear the same beautiful song over and again, played by street buskers and hummed by washer women. It floats through school windows, it fills the air like a beautiful scent, I have never been so happy in all my life. Grown men weep openly in the streets, crying babies stop and gurgle, enthralled. The sourest of old couples are once again lost in each other’s eyes. Truly, Miss Obravey is an angel in disguise.’

As well as her immense musical contributions, Obravey wrote a number of columns in many different newspapers under various pseudonyms. In these she posited various political and philosophical theories, many of which were in opposition to each other. More than once she captivated the nation’s attention by staging a heated argument across the papers in this way. When interviewed about this, shortly before her death, she said that it was her personal interpretation of dialectal immaterialism.

Her most famous article, the one which has shaped the way in which Buentoillitants today celebrate her legacy, was an interview with herself. A pseudonym, Katie Jynn, asked Obravey how she would like people to remember her, when she was gone? ‘I would like them to sit out in the streets for a day, warmed by huge bonfires. I would like them to share home-made food, to laugh, and to play my music throughout,’ was the reply. She was found dead by her own hand, the day after the article was published.


Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Saint Isiir’s Left Hand

January 5th – The Honey Workers’ Festival

The Honey Workers’ Festival harks back to the days when honey was a mainstay of the Buentoilliçan economy. The lower districts were full of wooden roof-hives, and anaphylaxis sufferers were given government-appointed homes in the Catathon district, next to the smoker’s yards.

Nowadays the honey industry is reduced to a few buildings in the east, and the iconic slatted nodules of roof hives that litter the rest of the city have long since been filled in to discourage bee infestations. Despite their modern lack of prominence, the workers usually put on a good show, and this year is expected to be no exception.

Throughout the day, stalls selling honey and honey-based products such as mead and candles will be placed around the bandstand in the Buzzing Gardens. Specially sealed and red-lit tasting tents will cater for those seeking out the more exotic dark honey; a potent, spicy substance made by the female ascended moth from night lilies. The Master’s Ambulance service will be on standby for any cases of ridgotoxicity which may occur (revellers are reminded to always have their blood type checked before tasting dark honey).

At 3:45, the Honey Worker’s Festival Band will march from the Cooperative Bee Yard to the bandstand, playing a special rendition of ‘Sup the Honey of Life’. The day’s highlight is expected to be the spectacle of Hanavario Thickskinne braving The Room of Killer Death Bees.

The children’s tent will feature many well-loved traditional activities, such as ‘a go in the big white suit’ and ‘count the bees in the jar’.


Other festivals happening today:

  • Derek Flatley’s Hall of Amusements Free Day

January 4th – Saint Reinard’s Day

One of the more important events in the Buentoilliçan Chastise Church’s calendar, Saint Reinard’s day is a time of prayer and of giving thanks to Saint Reinard, popularly known as the most sinful man to have walked the earth, and patron saint of dentists.

Saint Reinard was the last known Buentoilliçan sin eater to be officially supported by the Chastise Church. He rose to sainthood shortly after he was ritualistically killed at the age of seventy six, on this day in 1846. In his seventy six years walking the earth, Reinard, whose birth name was Hamish Bulgarrson, had accumulated the sins of over thirteen thousand sinners, around six hundred of whom were fellow sin eaters that had been collecting the consolidated sins of many generations.

The practice of sin eating is frowned upon by the Church nowadays, although many studies indicate that it still survives in a modified form in some small sections of Buentoilliçan society. The act itself is a protracted ritual wherein the sin eater bakes a loaf of bread containing a small quantity of finely crushed teeth from a recently deceased person. At the time it was widely believed that a person’s sin was concentrated in their teeth (a rotting tooth was a sure sign of sinful behaviour), and that by eating the loaf a sin eater would take this sin onto themselves, freeing the soul of the deceased from its ultimate chastisement.

Today followers of Saint Reinard will complete their month-long pilgrimage around the Seven Cities, ending the journey with a torturous procession up Ranaclois hill on their knees to the Church of the Holy Host. They wear red masks in honour of Reinard’s famously ruddy face. There, in the octagonal central chamber, each follower lets a small quantity of blood onto the central altar; the ceremony commemorates the killing of Reinard, who is said to have bled in a constant torrent for sixteen full days after his death.

By his death, Saint Reinard apparently freed followers of the Chastise Church of some of humanity’s original sins, which had been held by generations of sin eaters before him. A combination of astrological alignments and prophesied signs meant that sins he held returned to the earth with his blood. As such, devotion to Reinard is strong, and blood letting can at times be excessive; The Orderlies of Good Health are paid by the Church to oversee proceedings.

Visitors to the City are advised to wear appropriate waterproof footwear if they intend to visit The Church of the Holy Host or its environs today or for the next sixteen days.


Other festivals happening today:

  • The Homily Collection Open Day
  • Dan ‘the Shill’ Johnson’s Advert Extravaganza

January 3rd – The End of the Wait

The origins of The End of the Wait are unclear, and many pieces of unproven speculation have been published by the Buentoilliçan universities (especially de Geers), but the general consensus is that this needn’t detract from the festival.

Celebrations on this day are highly idiosyncratic person to person, as is the essential meaning of the day. Some Buentoillitants choose to spend the day doing mundane tasks they have put off for too long, or similarly making lists and resolutions to resolve some part of their life which has been ‘left waiting’. Others (especially members of the Faucaust Sect who claim unverified ownership over the day) choose to deliberately put off something they usually indulge in for a month or so; be it chocolate, sex, popular music; and then re-indulge themselves with gusto today.

The post office also engages in the festival, ensuring that all the previous year’s post has been delivered by today. Similarly, many companies reveal new product lines during the festival; today Buentoille’s thriving music and digital games industries usually release hundreds of long-teased albums and games. In a piece published in the Ranaclois Herald about the large numbers of mental breakdowns which occur in these companies before The End of the Wait, Jeraldine Hait coined the term ‘wait syndrome’. This term has recently been picked up by the Union of Strong and Resolute Entertainment Workers (USREW) as a rallying cry against excessive working hours and pressure, in their fortnightly television segment, USREW Speaks.

Folklore has it that today is when the long-nested Gablelark eggs hatch, but various studies into the matter have proven this to be a falsehood.

The festival has recently been popularised in neighbouring Litancha, due to the cult film Waiting for Her, which features the memorable final scene set at the festival’s celebrations, in which the lonesome protagonist is reunited with her wife after a long stint at sea.


Other festivals happening today:

  •  Big Val’s Festival of Shapely Movers

January 2nd – The Festival of Tortoises and Tortoise-Related Animals

The Festival of Tortoises and Tortoise-Related Animals was created in 1979 by animal rights activists in celebration of the city outlawing the consumption of tortoises, turtles and other related creatures such as terrapins.

Revellers are invited to pet rescued tortoises at special heated pens set up for the day in the Holy Market Square, and free passes to the city’s aquarium are given to members of the TAS (Turtle Appreciation Society), AHRTWG (Animals Have Rights Too Working Group) and CBSA (Compassionate Buentoillitants in Support of Animals).

Holy Market Square also hosts a number of vegan food stands and stands for animal rights campaigning organisations which educate the public about the non-food-related activities that still damage chelonii to this day. For revellers who are fired-up by these stalls, safe release of anger and energy is provided in a march to the Parliament building and the BioJohnsoncorp offices (the latter are charged with selling agro-chemicals which cause stunted growth in tortoise shells).

Those fired up with more destructive tendencies can find adequate recourse in the evening when berrat hooks, slavets, budle spoons and other such illegal tools of the tortoise-meat trade are burned in an enormous bonfire, around which vegan hot chocolates are sold. As almost all the original tools were destroyed in the years following the Tortoise Turtle and Terrapin act of 1979 (excluding those held by law in the Museum of Traditional Antiquities), wooden effigies of the offending articles are used instead.


Other Festivals happening today:

  •  ‘Don’t open that valve!’ festival of BIG MISTAKES
  •  The Universalist Society Ball
  •  Festival Dejour

January 1st – Catrosondia Day

Catrosondia day is a reserved and humble affair for the City’s Catrosondian population. Mostly it is a time of contemplation for the homeland they lost in the Great Flood of 2001/2002, when in the midst of new-year celebrations their small island began to sink beneath the waves.

The cause of the sinking is still unknown, and this has been a source of great dispute and unease for the Catrosondian people; the remains of many families have been split by religious and political divisions as a result of their theories about the Flood. Many new groups have been set up in the wake of the disaster: some scientific, raising money and lobbying for research into the cause of the sinking; some political looking to integrate themselves further into Buentoilliçan culture; others religious, looking on the Flood as the act of an angry god, or even believing the island will raise from the sea anew, washed clean of sin.

Because of it’s proximity, tolerance and respect for tradition, Buentoille now houses almost the entirety of the Catrosondian diaspora. Whilst they are generally welcomed, some hard-right Buentoilliçan groups regularly express concern over the large number of (now settled) foreigners through demonstrations, lobbying, media and violence. As such there has been some hostility to the introduction of the festival in the past, but most are in favour of commemorating the terrible event which led to the death of nearly a million people.

For most Catrosondian’s the day is spent in quiet contemplation with their families, eating nothing but lehavas nuts (a buoyant nut which was the only food available to those refugees who sheltered on the nearby crags until help arrived). In the evening they gather at the Memorial by Saint Fibrass’ Dock and submerge themselves in the freezing water.


There are no other festivals today.