Festival of Samhain

Overview


The Festival of Samhain is the celebration of the fall harvest. What started as a commoner's last great feast before the harshness of winter has become the largest celebration in the kingdom. From the smallest settlement to The Royal Palace of Éirigh itself, the halls are decked with the colors of fall, the bonfires are lit, and the warmth of fellowship with friends and family abounds.
 
Everywhere I look, my eyes are assaulted by colorful masks and jewelry sparkling in the firelight. The walls are draped as lavishly as the guests with banners of orange, red, and gold, and the candles, tables, and other alcoves of the place are filled with bouquets of roses or wreaths of fiery fall leaves. The great hall seems almost to breathe itself, as shadows of candlelight dance over the walls and guests, bringing life to every corner they touch.
— OUTSPOKEN, Book One, Chapter 15

History


The earliest form of the Festival of Samhain was simple family gatherings. After the back breaking work of bringing in the final harvest of the year, they would come together around the campfire and enjoy a small feast to celebrate the prosperity of their crop. If a neighbor had a poor year, they could reach out at Samhain for help to survive the winter, promising to pay back the family's hospitality when they got their feet under them again. It was common for these neighbors to act as family from that point on, protecting and prospering one another.

This practice eventually became the first iteration of The Feudal Alliance System. The most prosperous family in a region would care for those around them, and receive payment back the following year. As the cycle continued, that family grew still more prosperous, and the term Laird came into common use. A few generations later, as the Lairds grew richer on the returns, the family ties became weaker. It wasn't long before those in the community that were once called family became Tenants.

With these changes, the Festival of Samhain became a time of pledging as well as celebration, in which new tenants would pledge their lands and loyalty to the Laird in exchange for lifesaving support through the winter. The Lairds celebrated this time with lavish feasts, masquerade balls, and entertainment, where only the most valued tenants were allowed to partake. The lesser tenants, on the other hand, continued the tradition of a small feast amongst family and friends around a blazing bonfire.

After The Great Alliance was forged and the Kingdom of Éirigh was born, the new King made the Festival of Samhain a national event. By the end of King Teilgeoir Slánaitheoir I's reign, there would be a week long celebration in The Royal City, featuring the finest cuisine, the most beautiful balls, and the most carefree nobility you've ever seen.

This tradition continued until The First Great Dynastic Shift. Without explanation, King Máirtín I put an end to all gatherings in the Royal Palace. While the Royal City still decks the halls for the Festival every year, it isn't the same without the crown jewel of the glistening palace at its core. Laird Breith Sadach took up the mantel of this lost treasure, creating the Harvest Ball the following year. While it is no Festival of Samhain like the kingdom once knew, the Lairds and Nobles  of the kingdom still gather together every year in Laird Sadach's magnificent castle.

“May I have this dance?” My voice is timid, hands unsteady. The Samhain bonfire burns bright, castling flickering shadows across Ilow’s face. She wears a simple dress, and her eyes light up at the question, making her face even more beautiful than I thought possible. She nods, and I bow deeply, just like Pa taught me, extending my hand to her and escorting her to the dance floor.
The music is sweet, and my father’s violin sings with a voice of its own, leading the band into a new song. We curtsey to one another, and as the sound swells around us, I take her in my arms, swooping her gracefully around the fire.
— OUTSPOKEN, Book One, Chapter 15

Family Bonds


While much of the kingdom has forgotten about the family-like bonds that pledges during the Festival of Samhain once created, there are a few old souls that have held on to this value. The most notable of these was The Slánaitheoir Royal Family. Laird Aleck Beygar is another excellent example, having nearly driven his noble family to poverty in ensuring his tenants are well cared for.

See Also

The Royal Palace of Éirigh
Building / Landmark | Dec 27, 2020

The Royal Castle of Éirigh is more than just the home of the Royal Family -- it is intended the center of politics and culture for the Kingdom.


The First Great Dynastic Shift
Plot | Dec 27, 2020

The First Great Dynastic Shift of Éirigh occurred in the year 1475, putting a brutal end to The Slánaitheoir Royal Family and ending with the Traitor King Máirtín I on the throne.


Harvest Ball
Tradition / Ritual | Dec 27, 2020

Laird Breith Sadach's annual Harvest Ball became the place for Éirigh's nobility to be during the Festival of Samhain when King Máirtín I put an end to the beloved palace festivities.


Execution


Regardless of class, the Festival of Samhain is always celebrated with a feast, music, dancing, and a bonfire of some kind. Tenants will usually gather together in the center of their settlement and share the spoils of their labor, ensuring that everyone has enough for a full belly. At these smaller gatherings, the feast is typically comprised of the largest harvest items. This might include fresh bread, lamb or beef stew, baked potatoes, meat pies, apple and blackcurrant pies, and other such delights, accompanied by malt whiskeys and ginger drinks.

Among the upper classes, these celebrations grow far more lavish. While the foods are similar, they come in far greater abundance, and are usually accompanied by fine wines, ginger wines, and malt whiskeys. It was King Slánaitheoir I that introduced lavish balls and decorations to the festival, and any noble or Laird would be caught dead before they would miss an invitation to the Royal Samhain Ball. These affairs were bedecked with wreathes of multicolored leaves and fall flowers, colorful cloth wall hangings of red, gold, and yellow, and warm candlelight reaching every corner. More beautiful than the decorations were the members of the upper classes, adorned with the finest, most fashionable garments money could buy, along with ornate masks. The Samhain Festival has become the traditional place for young ladies ready for marriage to make their debut, and many a courtship has struck up in whispered laughter between dancing couples.

  Dinner is nearly finished when Lady Chegrin appears at Lorcan’s side, tapping his shoulder with a put-upon tentativeness, for propriety’s sake. Everyone turns to watch as she presses her purple handkerchief into his palm, a smile in her eyes and her heart on her sleeve. She notices the attention tossed their way, and her cheeks blush lightly.
“Save me a dance?” She questions, her voice breathy, but exaggerated enough for anyone in the hall to hear her. Lorcan, ever the showman, lifts her hand to his lips, gazing up at her warmly as he seals the promise with a kiss on her palm. Some of the Ladies let out light sounds of adoration, and the Lairds chuckle behind their napkins, all enthralled by the show.
— OUTSPOKEN, Book One, Chapter 15

Observance


For tenants and other members of the lower classes, the festival occurs as soon as the final harvest has been brought in. For Lairds and the upper classes, it falls a week after the collection of rents, typically toward the end of October.



Cover image: by Photo by Dorothea OLDANI on Unsplash

Comments

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11 Jan, 2021 17:09

This is a really interesting and detailed festival! I like how its origins tie in to the current political system of the country, and the myriad of other historical details added into the article.

11 Jan, 2021 18:33

Thanks, TC!