January 11th – Buentoilliçan Literacy Day

Despite the near 100% literacy rates in Buentoille, the City’s residents still choose to celebrate this outdated festival, initially created by a conglomeration of unions (primarily the Union of Radical Firepersons and the Buentoilliçan Association of Haberdashery and Tailor’s Guilds) in an attempt to improve the lives of their workers.

The festival would have originally been a week long; the unions would hire out large civic buildings where they would teach their workers the basics of literacy, enabling them to enjoy and educate themselves. These services were widely enjoyed by a wide variety of residents. The festival was also looked at as an opportunity to increase the political consciousness of the Buentoillitant proletariat, but unfortunately the modern festival has all-but lost these connotations.

In its modern form the festival has morphed into a commercial event for book companies, especially those who publish children’s literature. Literature is a large force in the culture of Buentoille, and parents are anxious to ensure that their children are able to engage with it. A number of new releases and sales will happen today, and will be widely shared by the City’s media.

One of the few public gatherings today is a result of the idiosyncratic way in which Buentoilliçan schools test literacy; each child must read Interstitial Realities in one sitting from cover to cover. This is tested en masse today, as a kind of passing out ceremony from the first term of school. Buentoillitants start school proper usually long after they have learned to write, and the practice is treated as a benign (if often frustrating) archaic tradition, worthy of upholding to strengthen Buentoilliçan culture as a whole. As such, the seminal poetry collection by A.E. Millicent is much maligned and lauded in popular culture, and is often invoked as a shorthand for the extensive Buentoilliçan literary canon.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Proctor Dandridge Memorial Spelling Bee
  • Reinterpret the Dialectic!
  • Barry Beveridge’s Big Birthday Bash

January 12th – Buentoilliçan Lunar New Year

In Buentoille, Lunar New Year is of equal importance to the calendar New Year, and tonight there will be much merriment. Lunar New Year is primarily celebrated in the east of the city, but in recent years, after the terrible events of Catrosondia Day, many western Buentoillitants have chosen to postpone their New Year’s Eve celebrations until today.

The festival is celebrated in much the same way as it would have been by the eastern Buentoillitants’ Escotolate ancestors; large gangs of drummers and traditional korri horn players dance through the streets, making as much noise as possible in an attempt to ward away bad luck and evil spirits in the coming year. These celebrations commence as soon as the moon begins to rise, as observed from the top of the Tower of Saint Fastling, the highest structure in the City, atop Ranaclois hill. As soon as the crest of the first full moon of the year is sighted, fireworks cascade from the tower as a signal to all awaiting revellers.

Many breweries in the City choose today to open their casks of hutsting, a strong, clear liquor distilled from bitter beets, and a traditional delicacy of the ancient Escotolatian tribes-people. More alcohol is consumed today than on any other day of the year, and the emergency services have many extra crews on hand as a result.

Many homes in the eastern districts will also prepare huge feasts of winter vegetables (most of the Escotolatian tribes were vegetarian or vegan, and this preference has been passed down through the generations), which are often eaten al-fresco beside large bonfires in the piazzas and parks, in full view of the full moon. Here traditional dances are performed, involving bright costumes and large papier-mâché moons on sticks, lit from within.

Recent research has indicated that the loud noises and lights of the festival may have been originally an attempt to ward away the packs of Eastern White Wolf, which are particularly bold on this evening. This may explain why the first full moon of the year is often referred to as the ‘Wolf Moon’ by many eastern residents of the City. Accordingly, any visitors who are planning on travelling beyond the bounds of the City tonight are strongly advised to take adequate precautions, including a lupine warding whistle.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Opening of our Holy Mother
  • Hugenot District Cat Sanctuary Open Day
  • One Hundred Prayers for the Dead

January 13th – The Winter Harvest

The Winter Harvest is often referred to by a number of other names, including the Festival of Sheets, the Festival of Death’s Due, and Death’s Washing Day. On this day, many Buentoillitants will gather in and around the City’s graveyards, where white sheets will be hung between posts amongst the graves. The sheets are soaked in a clear embalming oil for a week before the festival begins, in barrels or casks which are stored in mausoleums or in lychgates. Festival goers will paint their faces white and wear black clothes.

Revellers welcome the twilight hour with hymnodic chanting and the ringing of special bells, of a design similar to that which Death is thought to ring as it takes life. They will then take turns to walk through the oil-laden sheets, a bell ringing each time a person passes through. When all those willing to participate have ‘passed’, the sheets are then burned, and the participants stand around the fire, holding hands in silence.

The practice is thought to originate from the late 1670s, when a persistent seasonal disease (possibly a virulent strain of flu) killed hundreds of Buentoillitants at this time of year. The act of ‘passing through’ the veil is supposed to be symbolic of death, and it was thought that by enacting the ritual it might be possible to trick Death into thinking you were already dead for some time. The timing of the festival initially changed with perceived need, but the number thirteen’s association with unluckiness and death may be why the modern festival is performed on this particular day.

Fifteen people are known to have actually died during the festival, most from heart-related conditions, though one murder did occur in 1843. The earliest known mention of the festival is in Lycksette’s Travelles (1686), wherein the eponymous author describes witnessing the festival:

‘The localles here are exseptionalle scared of the coufing horour, a punyshment from God for thyr wyked ways. Theyr sheets they do drayp among theyr dede, and there they walke throu them, like spiryts asending to hevyn. Tis an unnervyng spektakle, on I do knott wysh to see agen. The sheets dyd move as yf blowyn by some spektrall otheworldlye bryse, out of tyme with that whych I dyd feyl on myne fase.’

Other festivals happening today:

  • Coffee Shack Sack Race
  • Computer Science for Everyone
  • Buentoille Photographic Society Great Gallery Reveal

January 14th – The First Day of A Dreamlike Notion

In 1999 famous artist and games designer Jorald Hendersonne invented the first and most exciting ARG (alternative reality game) of Buentoilliçan society. Known to most simply as ‘The Game’, it’s real name is A Dreamlike Notion. Today the ARG will begin with a selection ceremony and accompanying ARG promotional festival.

The theme of The Game changes every year, and this year’s theme is necessarily unknown, but previous years have involved (amongst other things) secret societies who communicate through odd lines in poems published many years before, cuttlefish-worshipping cults plotting the end of the world, groups of spies looking to take down shadowy political groups, aliens who are interested only in architecture, and conjunctions of monstrous spheres of reality where vampires build statues from coagulated blood that reveal the essential truths of reality.

Something in the region of 15000 people will turn up to the selection ceremony, but only ten people will be selected as participants in the ARG. A far larger group (usually something in the region of three hundred people) will be selected to work as actors in the ARG, or in other similar roles. Those selected to participate as ‘players’ will never receive any official acknowledgement of this fact, but for those lucky few very strange things will start to happen over the coming months. The ceremony itself consists of several protracted interviews with each attendee, covering issues as diverse as geology, world politics and colour preference. This means that the festival can often span a number of days.

The festival will take place this year in the Old Courthouse, with the lobby and lower floors being given over to other ARG games companies, collaborations and cooperatives. An estimated five hundred of these organisations will hope to attract attention from the majority of revellers who will not be selected for A Dreamlike Notion. Food sellers have taken inspiration from previous instances of The Game, selling squid gibbets, blood cakes, ‘nano bot’ burgers, essence of The Hand smoothies and various other concoctions.

The game usually begins with small intrusions into the players’ lives; they might receive strange post containing special computer software loaded onto disks, hear the same innocuous words over and again from strangers’ mouths, or markings in the pavement that have been there for years might begin suddenly to hold additional meaning. In one instance a player’s family, friends and co-workers slowly began to disappear, each speaking nonsensically about a different type of tea before they left.

Since the death of Annis Kaipheri in 2007, A Dreamlike Notion has been overseen by the Council for Civil Protection.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Technology Advocacy Day

January 15th – A View of the City

Deep in Jutêgarde Parish in the east, beneath the Trioli Hill, is a block of flats named after the Escotolate philosopher, Aldixous Hiyke. It is tall, red brick construction, with a strange roof that looks like a large white conical hat, giving it the appearance of an odd, giant mushroom. The ‘brim’ reaches out well beyond the building’s foundations, and this, along with the diramenn trees that grow around it, mean that the basement rooms are always dark and damp, despite having skylights built in.

In the basement room on the north side lives a young woman, known to her neighbours as Ischi. She is thought to be young primarily because of her mannerisms and voice; the way in which she moves; yet rarely has anyone seen her face from behind the beautiful patterned scarves she wears. They don’t see much of her, as she spends most days holed-up in her rooms, but today she opens those rooms up, so that they may have a view of the City.

Whilst her closest neighbours are invited inside for tall glasses of mushroom tea and sweet dumplings, the only way for other visitors to get a glimpse of the City is for them to look through the small skylight window outside, which today will be left uncovered. What they see through that tiny window, is something quite remarkable: a perfect model of Buentoille, all exactly to scale.

Everything is there: the tall spires of Ranaclois Hill; the tangle of roofs that is the Warrens; the open parks, like bald patches on a scalp; the Rambla, the squares, the rippling roofs of Guilgamot district; the Parliament building; the strange, alien architecture of The Pohlatiné Mission; the sucking marshes on the outskirts; the dock and shimmering sea. Glorious Buentoille.

Tiny trams make their way through the winding streets, yet those hunched over the tiny window will swear on their mother’s life that they see further movement within; tiny people going about their tiny lives, unaware of these giant eyes above them. Local children say that Ischi is a witch, that she changes things in the model and the City changes in response, that if you were to trip and fall into it then earthquakes would crush whole sections of Buentoille.

In a nearby pub, the Quilted Cat, an old man called Ulfin will tell anyone who buys him a drink the story of a young boy who looked in through that basement window and saw another, smaller boy looking in through another, smaller window.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Hotel Trinim Hide and Seek Festival
  • Jilted Lover Commiseration Day

January 16th – Snow Day

You will see more children in the streets of Buentoille today than on any other day of the year. They will be accompanied by street vendors stirring huge vats of steaming caramelised nuts, soup salespeople and those supplying extra scarves, gloves and woolly hats with the bobble on top to the children and their parents. Today it is going to snow.

Despite many meteorological studies into the phenomenon, the question of why it is almost certain to snow today is still unsolved. It is thought to be to do with the sudden abatement of the southern Karst winds, but this is far from proven or fully explained. The pattern first emerged through the 1860s, but was initially ignored as that decade saw record snowfalls, still unmatched today, where Buentoille was covered in persistent snow from late December to mid March.

Whilst it might snow on other days of the year, it has snowed on the 16th of January every day since 1862, except for 1994 when it merely sleeted. Children wake up especially early, as the snow has often settled overnight, and continues to fall through the day. The few cars in the city are banned from using the roads today, but the tramways and train lines are salted in advance, and continue to run on time. The underground is usually unaffected.

Today it is also highly likely that the Moway river that runs through the south west of the City, and The People’s Mirror (the lake in Revolution Park) will freeze over, providing an excellent opportunity for ice skaters. The Committee for Winter Safety will test the thickness of the ice is adequate before any skating is allowed. Sledging is also a common pastime, and is part of the reason that cars are banned today, with many of the steep roads and lanes being transformed for the day into sledge and ski runs by the City’s children. The most famous of these runs goes through the twists and turns of the Prophet’s Steps in Guilgamot district; the child who can complete the journey unharmed and still on their sledge is awarded the Brilliant Medal of Extreme Honour by the Union of Children.

Today is also a day for the giving and receiving of cards decorated with snowy scenes, usually with the salutation ‘Happy Snow Day!’ These cards will often feature a redjack, a small, blood-red bird with a white beak that visits the City only on Snow Day.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Guild of Skaters Grand Competition
  • Ice Fisher’s Association Weigh In

January 17th – Izak Ugirin’s Day

Izak Ugirin is a legendary figure from the Buentoilliçan music scene. Born in on this day in 1918 to a poor family from the Docker’s districts, Ugirin was noted to be an extremely lively child by his teachers and friends, a trait which stayed with him until death at the ripe old age of 94. Indeed, it was an attribute about which Ugirin seemed immensely proud; in an interview in the 2005 work about his life, The Way He Moves, Ugirin unexpectedly produces a school report:

I have it here, actually,’ he said, pulling a weathered old sheet out from his jacket pocket, ‘Izak seems incapable of any task which requires more than five minutes of sustained concentration. Unfortunately I have had to have him leave class on a number of occasions this term, due to his extremely distracting behaviour.’ Mr. Ugirin paused for effect here, his knees bobbing up and down in excitement, ‘He seems to be possessed of a boundless energy that he cannot keep contained.’ His tone upon reading these words was similar to that of a man who has just read the final words of a book he had loved all his life to his only child. His eyes were intense; laden with meaning.

Despite failing almost all of his classes at school, Ugirin found early success and fame in the music halls and clubs of the time through dance. He would turn up to almost every musical event that the City had to offer, dancing in his own, strange, characteristic way throughout. Ugirin would be the first on the dance floor, and the last off it, often staying at the end to chat to the band, and soon he found himself gaining free entry to every venue he frequented. In these early days, jazz was the most popular musical form in Buentoille, along with ragtime and folk; Ugirin seemed to favour them all equally.

This fame only intensified as new music forms came about as the century progressed, with many bands inviting him on stage or tour with him, but Ugirin never left the dance floor. He often danced alone, but would dance with anyone who suitably impressed him. For the entirety of the 1960s he danced almost exclusively with the ex-ballet dancer Missy Van Horne, and the two months after her death in 1970 were the only time during his life you could not find Ugirin dancing in public.

Ugirin’s characteristic energy was often ascribed to drugs such as katphaline and cocaine, but he claimed never to have even drank alcohol, and on several instances insisted on having blood tests to prove his claims. In his later life Ugirin did try alcohol, but immediately spat it out. He was known to only drink ice cold lemonade until he was diagnosed with diabetes in his eighties. He died at a Jungle gig in Benny’s Cavern, in 2012. His cause of death is unclear; eyewitnesses report seeing him dancing as he always did (Ugirin danced like he was 20 even into his old age, refusing to slow down), but as the music ended at 6:30 in the morning, he suddenly looked very tired and sat down at the bar. The bar lady, who had known him many years and never seen him seated, asked him if he was okay. ‘I think I need a rest, he said, ‘it was fun whilst it lasted.’ He then put his head on the bar, made as if to sleep there, and promptly died.

Many Buentoillitants will turn up to Benny’s Cavern today, from the various great musicians who he met, to those he danced with, to those who have only heard of his great work. The Buentoille Union of Dance, of which Ugirin was a founding member, will perform a number of dances, commemorating the various different dance forms and genres the man pioneered. Speeches will be made between the music of various new bands, and various types of lemonade will be served. The festival will culminate in a strange spectacle; an entirely silent dance comprising of incredibly quick footwork is accompanied by swirling hand movements, with a particularly memorable few minutes in which the dancers hold their arms straight up, but leave the hands floppy. The lack of music in this dance is intended to symbolise how Ugirin could dance to any kind of music, no matter the beat, rhythm, pace or melody, in a way that was utterly individual, beautiful and compelling.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Graffiti Artists’ Tour Day

  • Hoppard Synthenik’s Dutiful Kiss Remembrance Ceremony

  • The Festival of Saint Ocul’s Awakening

January 18th – The Festival of Freckles and Moles

Various smiling, freckly cherubs have been plastered all across the City in the form of posters advertising Buentoille’s newly announced Festival of Freckles. The festival is organised by the City’s Society of Dermatologists, who are setting up various stalls in Saint Finnius’ Square which will check potentially worrisome moles for signs of disease, promote the benefits of good skin care, and sell various lotions and oils. The festival was originally intended as a generalised dermatological health day, but due to new laws (lobbied for by the so-called True Traditionalists) which restrict the creation of new, official festivals unless they are backed by two separate groups, the specialisation of freckles was agreed upon.

The second group, who insisted upon the focus on freckles, are the Buentoilliçan Creed of Beauty, a relatively new group whose most recent contribution to Buentoilliçan society, besides the festival, is their new publication Glowing, which, amongst other things, has pointed to the high incidence of freckles in Buentoillitants of all racial backgrounds as a sign of their ‘increased genetic strength and beauty’ in comparison to inhabitants of other cities and cultures. The study was peer-reviewed by Buentoillitant Scientist Magazine, who noted that whilst ‘the study’s methodology and findings are sound’, the ‘conclusions drawn from [the study] by the Creed of Beauty are entirely spurious.’ It is currently unknown why Buentoille appears to have a far higher rate of freckled inhabitants than anywhere else in the known world.

The Creed will also be hosting a number of stalls at the square, which will educate visitors about the importance of freckles in Buentoilliçan history and culture, and paint freckles onto children and adults who do not naturally have them. They will also be organising a beauty pageant and catwalk. Many of these activities are considered suspect by various other Buentoilliçan organisations, and it is expected that a number of protesters will turn up to the festival, all with their own reasoning. The True Traditionalists are obviously expected to protest at any new festival, but other groups have also been critical of the festival and it’s perceived aims, saying that it creates a ‘false dichotomy of beauty,’ and that the claims that freckles are historically important to the City’s culture amount to ‘disingenuous historical revisionism.’ In response, the Creed has today released a new edition of Glowing, which claims to have found new evidence buried in the vaults of the Hidden Library for their claims that Buentoillitants historically revered and even worshipped highly freckled people.

Claims that the Creed is secretly funded by the Guild of Masters have been strongly rebuked.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Emergence of THE HAND!!!

  • Raymonde Siythe’s Crystal Reading Ceremony

January 19th – The Surfacing of the Costermonger Whale

New arrivals to the City of Festivals may have noticed a large congregation at the docks; hundreds of people dressed in thick jumpers and rain coats, sitting under large umbrellas on camping and deckchairs, holding binoculars. They are waiting for a whale that isn’t coming.

The Costermonger Whale was a particular type of long-lived toothed whale, similar in appearance to a sperm whale. Very few others (called ‘mongers’ after their most famous example) have been sighted in the wild, yet a lot is known about this particular species; in 1873 over thirty of them washed up in the Buentoille Bay, almost all of which unfortunately died, allowing for extensive dissection and study. The one survivor of this terrible event was The Costermonger Whale; a young whale at the time, it washed up right next to the dock itself, where a gang of sailors were quick enough to save it with the equipment used to haul large pieces of cargo to shore.

The studies carried out on the other whales, all of which were from the same pod, found that the monger whale has an abnormally large brain for its body size, similar in construction to the human brain in certain respects. The areas that are, in the human brain, linked to comprehension of time and superstition, were found to be particularly large. It has been theorised that the monger whale has cognitive abilities rivalling those of a ten year old human child, but this is as yet unproven.

Exactly a year after the mass beaching, the Costermonger Whale returned to the docks of Buentoille, this time only lifting it’s chin onto land, whereupon it disgorged a number of valuable items, including three hundred clams (all of which contained exquisite pearls), a number of the navigation instruments used on the fateful Great Expedition, and a large chest of golden coins used by the Picaroon Consulate, dating from the 1560s – the height of their empire’s control over the Outer Sea. The whale then continued to swim around the bay for the rest of the day, happily receiving fish thrown in from the inhabitants of the dock.

A great number of people turned out to watch the spectacle (and attempt to take part of the booty), including a few of the naturalists, veterinarians, cetologists and other scientists who had attended the initial beaching. A few of them noticed that the whale was suffering from a small infestation of Darcyl’s Barnacles, an extremely painful parasitic form of whale barnacle that are particularly attracted to monger whales. They promptly sailed out to the Whale, whereupon it rolled onto its side to allow them to scrape the barnacles off with scraping rods. It is thought that they are usually removed by other monger whales using a bony protrusion on their noses, but the Costermonger Whale had unfortunately lost its pod.

The Whale continued to return every year, bringing valuable gifts in return for medical care, and, perhaps, the company of other intelligent mammals. Over time a number of traditions developed around its appearance; an enormous fish pie was made and fed to the Whale (who seemed to favour it to plain fish), people would swim around it in colourful bathing suits, and when they noticed it enjoyed music, people would row out into the harbour and sing, and it would sing back for the duration of its stay.

Today the pie is still baked, the swimmers still adorn their colourful bathing suits, the choir still sings, but no whale arrives; it hasn’t since 1972.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Cloister of Saint Ishmael’s Day of Open Prayer

  • The Scattering of the Petals

January 20th – The Coronation of the Traitor King Remembrance Day

Today is a day of public sadness and remembrance for the victims of the tyrannous reign of King Horatio The Last, or The Traitor King, who was crowned on this day, 1890. Whilst some of the more terrible events of the Traitor King’s reign are commemorated in their own festivals, today is a day for Buentoillitants to look back in anger at the period in general; to learn from the past and never let a tyrant come to power in Buentoille again.

Shortly after his Coronation, King Horatio suspended Parliament using legal loopholes to recall the arbitrary powers of the old absolute monarchy. The Parliament of the time seemed increasingly illegitimate due to low voter turnouts, and their apparent inability to provide a solution to the Great Grain Crisis; Buentoille had become dependant on the Seven Cities Trading Company for the bulk of it’s food supplies, and now that the Company had a monopoly it was charging outrageous prices for them.

Horatio capitalised on this crisis, posing as a ‘strongman’ who would single-handedly solve the problems the City faced. He had gained the support of the Buentoilliçan newspapers during his time as Trade Ambassador, and they provided him with excessive positive coverage. He also had the support of many industrialists from the City and abroad, so met little substantial resistance on his rise to power. It was not known at the time, but he was secretly being funded by the Seven Cities Trading Company, who also provided military support further into his reign.

Dissidents were ruthlessly suppressed in the following years, as the unions and revolutionary groups began to organise resistance. The old king’s death (later found to have been murdered by his brother, Horatio) was unexpected, so few had prepared for the nightmarish eventuality that now faced them. 15,238 Buentoillitants are known to have disappeared or been killed throughout the Traitor King’s fifteen years of rule, and today the same number of small, black stones will be placed in the Fountain of the Revolution, in an act of remembrance that echoes how their bodies were often disposed of in the marshes or sea near the City.

A large march will also take place, where people carry pictures of their dead relatives and ancestors, and sing songs; both mournful ballads and angry protest songs. The march will snake through the City, finally arriving at the Traitor’s Square (formerly the Monarch’s Tower, before its destruction in 1905), where many effigies of the King are burned on an enormous bonfire, and more songs are sung.

Counter-demonstations are expected to be staged by monarchist extremists in support of Regent June in nearby streets, but they usually do not dare to cross the path of the march; confrontations in previous years have left many monarchists dead or wounded.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Learn Your History: a Hidden Library Special Collection

  • The League of Anti-Monarchist’s Intercity Day of Solidarity

  • Regent June’s Celebratory Feast