The season surrounding Winter Soltice is generally a time of celebration in many cultures. In the Kingdom of Aetgard, before its fall, Winter Solstice was a general celebration that combined the various holidays, rituals, and other festivities of the season, attempting to accommodate people of all cultures that had come together to create the great kingdom. This was in fact the doing of Queen Liadhainn of Aetgard that is often considered one of the great uniting acts of that kingdom, some years after the death of the Tyrant-King Gudleifr and the chaos he had left the kingdom in. Below are some of the traditional observances and holidays that are celebrated today in the Lost Lands.
Festival of Aengels
A celebration that is Viali in origin, the Festival of Aengels is a celebration and gesture of gratitude to Serafina and all her Aengels whom teach and bless mankind. Some view it as a more religious holiday and acknowledge the Aengels as actual beings, while others view it as a celebration of the virtues that the Aengels symbolically represent. It is meant to be a time of gratitude for all good things in life, as well as a time to dedicate to blessing the lives of others in any way possible - this has led many to start traditions of giving gifts to others during this holiday. In Ivial, this holiday eclipses all others in its magnitutde and celebration.
One of the most iconic symbols of this festival is the holly tree and its berries, the holly tree being the favored tree of Serfaina. The images of holly leaves and berries can be found etched into various dinnerware, hanging baubles, and other ornamentation, as well as sprigs and branches of holly being used for decoration. Symbols of the other Serafim are present as well, such as Aphraen's crescent moon and silver sword, or Vandin's sun-encircled tome, though they are usually depicted as wreathed in holly when specifically used as decoration for this holiday.
This holiday is Faewyr in origin, a celebration taking place during the time when all the Great Spirits gather in the heavens to meet and discuss matters that are largely considered beyond the ken of mortals. The most common belief is that the Moot is primarily that of the Animal Spirits, while the Ancestor Spirits of humankind (such as Bogvaskr or Undm) are occasionally admitted, but usually hold their own separate Moot. As such, all Spirits are honored during this holiday, though the primary honors go to the Animal Spirits.
Decor for this holiday includes various animal totems of course, but most specifically and iconically, the usage of special candles made by Druids that burn with blue flame. The secrets of their making are not known outside the higher druidic circles and they can be difficult to procure, so in their stead ordinary candles simply dyed blue are often used.
The most common celebrations and observations of this holiday:
- Great feasts held in honor of and gratitude toward the Animal Spirits.
- Communal gatherings to carve and dedicate animal totems (usually led by a druid).
- Massive druidic gatherings and prayer circles to divine the will of the Spirits so that mortals may do well by them (non-druids are allowed to attend and take part, but the druids themselves lead the ceremony).
- Many Faewyr clans use this time to divine which specific animal spirit an individual who has come of age is attuned to.
- Individuals may take up personal tasks or quests to honor an Animal Spirit (or multiple Spirits) during this holiday, and dedicate themselves to it over the following year.
The Hillfolk and Parrens use this time to celebrate Exodus Day, when Sifa the Golden led the oppressed people out of Aetgard and away from the bloody tyranny of King Gudleifr who was out to slaughter all blond-haired citizens of his kingdom whom he believed to be particularly strong in the Inner Light. Sifa led these people south out of the kingdom and through the dread Fey Forest miraculously without harm, allowing them to settle the wild, hilly country beyond in southwest Arad now known as Karnath.
The most iconic symbol of this holiday is a white eight-pointed star surrounded in brambles. The star symbolizes the falling star that accompanied Sifa's birth, a piece of celestium falling from the sky to land outside her home just as she was being born. The brambles symbolize the blessing of the Fey, chaotic spirits of nature that allowed Sifa to lead her people through the Fey Forest unharmed, while destroying the army that the Tyrant-King Gudleifr sent to pursue them. These bramble-encircled stars are often set atop the tallest trees, honoring both the Light that sent the falling star as a sign of its blessing, and the Fey whom allowed the people to pass through the enchanted forest safely.