Semain e'Imalda Fenenia

The Festival of the Winter Sun

The Early Years

  Arriving during the peak of Tolara's Cold Season, the first people to stand upon the new continent's rocky shores found little but bleak solitude; nothing about this seemingly ancient and undiscovered land resembled the homelands they were so used to- including the snow that carpeted the ground beneath their feet.   While it was a beautiful, almost ethereal sight to behold, the snow and cold would prove to be deadly; huddled together in their makeshift shelters with little in the way of supplies, many of those who would call the continent their home in the early years were lost to its harshness- whether they succumbed to injury, exposure, or frost bite, or met some other grizzly fate at Tolara's hands. One among the original crew of The Golden Duchess, however, refused to give up: Imalda e'Yisonn, an E'inaran (Solar Elf) woman who hailed from the shores of Olienn.   At night, when the sun was well below the horizon, Imalda prayed fiercely to the Gods of her people that they provide food for their survival. And each day at dawn, after her prayers had ended, she set out with her quarterstaff to forage for food for the settlement- refusing to return until the last light had left the sky. Yet every day she returned empty handed save for a rabbit here, or a handful of a familiar marshweed there- until one day, she didn't; while attempting to forage what little she could for the survivors one morning, Imalda finally discovered something.   Hidden among the dead grasses of Winter grew a number of flowers that were large and pink in color. Among the barren boughs of a tree, hundreds of rich smelling, palm sized citrus fruits. And in a little bush on the edges of a creek, tiny little berries grew. She was overjoyed and wept with happiness at their sight. Considering them a gift from Farenthal for keeping her faith, she bundled as much as she could carry into the skirts of her last good dress and rushed back to the settlement as fast as she could.   As Tolara grew and developed during the early years, it was the bounty discovered by Imalda e'Yisonn that day which would become staple Winter foods in the settler's diets. Over time, they would be called Imalda's Blessing- or Amatis (the flowers), Laya (the Citrus), and Eranwe (the berries) individually.
Origins
The survivors of the first crew of The Golden Duchess, and subsequent crews and cargo to settle Tolara.   Official Establishment
1 Jenethi 5760, with the signing of The Opal Accords.   Other Names
  • Festival of Imalda's Bounty
  • Imalda's Light
  • Imalda's Blessing
  • Festival of the Winter Sun
  • Festival of the First
  Date(s) of Celebration
Most commonly celebrated from 28th, 29th, and 30th Oboran (through) 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Nedalia
Central Figure(s)
Imalda e'Yisonn et'Olienn   Primary Themes
Community and Survival   Secondary Themes
Hospitality, Charity, and Sacrifice   Tertiary Themes
Travel, Light, Life, and Death

Development of the Festival

  It wasn't long before a festival developed around the annual appearance of Imalda's discoveries, celebrating her as the savior of Tolara; sometimes called Imalda's Light or the Festival of the Winter Sun, early versions of the celebration almost exclusively celebrated Imalda herself as the savior of Tolara and would maintain their popularity throughout the course of Tolara's later settlement- passing from each subsequent generation of settlers to the next. Finally, after decades of informal celebration, the festival would be officially recognized as the first continental Tolaran holiday during the signing of The Opal Accords on 1 Jenethi 5760.   Over the time since her death especially, the festival has grown- developing into something so much larger than its original version; today the annual celebration of Semain e'Imalda Fenenia takes place over the course of 6 whole days in the middle of the Cold Season. And for the last 300 years, it has predominantly been a celebration focused on Community and related themes such as Charity, and Hospitality, instead of a celebration of Imalda herself (though she still plays a central role in the holiday's mythos). And while the festival is undeniably the most popular among the E'inara of the continent, variants of Semain e'Imalda Fenenia are celebrated all across the continent of Tolara.   All of this hearkens back to the days when Imalda discovered the plants that would change what seemed like an inevitable fate for the early Tolaran settlers, and paved the way for the safety and security of future ones. After all, all of Tolara's early settlers benefited from Imalda's Blessing- and all shared in the hardships of the first few Winters.  

Common Elements

 
Symbols
A number of symbols have become common during Semain e'Imalda Fenenia celebrations- including Fish, Stars, and Solar imagery. The most traditional, however, remain the bounty of Imelda: Amatis Flowers, Laya fruit, and Eranwe sprigs; these are traditionally depicted along with paper Lanterns, and Candles in most regions
 
Colors
Many Tolarans celebrate Semain e'Imalda Fenenia using a variety of colors unique to their regions and cultures. The most common across the continent, however, are Gold, deep Oranges, rich Purples and Blues, and vibrant Yellows
 
Decor
Arrangements of fruit and flowers are the most common decor during the festival. They often feature Amatis, Laya, and Eranwe, and are used in both public and private spaces to varying degrees. Paper Lanterns and Candles are also common decorations- especially during the last two days of the festival.
 
Cuisine
The foods of Imalda's Bounty are common, and many dishes are made from them. The most popular include Amatis Tea, pastries with sour Laya filling, light bread cakes with dried Laya peel or Elanwe berries, and filets of fish served with a sauce of Elanwe and Cream. Sorbets made from Laya Juice may also be consumed- and candied Laya Peel (as well as hard candies flavored with Amatis, Laya, or Eranwe) are also a favorite.
 
Activities
Carrying out Charitable Deeds such as house repair; the giving of Charitable gifts such as clothing; Communal Gatherings in common spaces- including community games, activities, and feasts; neighbor visitation among individual housing blocks; as well as the Lighting of the Flames and a wide scale Lantern Release on the last day of the festival.

Common Themes

 
Community
Community was integral to early life in Tolara; it was only through mutual cooperation and benefit that any survived- with or without the blessing of Imalda’s bounty. This theme continues to be reflected in the celebration of Semain e'Imalda Fenenia today through the general atmosphere of the festival.   At the beginning of the festival, city centers across the continent are heavily decorated and stand as places of celebration- most with rich awnings to block the snow, and low hanging lanterns lit by arcane lights. This serves to create lush areas in which the community of each town can congregate over the course of the 6 day festival; this time is used to interact with each other, form deeper social bonds within the community, and address community concerns in depth. Sometimes it may also be used as a time of judgment, with local Magistrates publicly presiding over trials wherein the guilty negatively affected the greater community.
 
Hospitality
The hospitality showed by the first settlers to those who came to Tolara aboard the second fleet solidified their survival alongside the rest. And so that tradition continues today during Semain e'Imalda Fenenia... Hospitality during the festival, however, tends to focus on the traveler- those who find themselves away from their own communities during the festivities.   During the 6 days of the festival, Travelers are taken in free of charge by any individual family, Inn, or other place of boarding which has the room and means to do so. For the duration these travelers are given everything they need for their journey for free- whether clothes, tools, food, or other needs. Additionally, they're treated as if they were always a member of the communities they find themselves within, and invited to participate in the festival as a legitimate member of their host family.
 
Sacrifice
Imalda's daily sacrifice of foraging for food for the first settlers has undeniably left a lasting impact on a festival which started in her honor. However, sacrifice in relation to Semain e'Imalda Fenenia is not the type of sacrifice most would associate with a festival. Instead, it represents the act of giving up one's own time and ambitions for the greater good of their community.   This theme of sacrifice is most prevalent during the first three days of celebrations. During this time at the start of Semain e'Imalda Fenenia, community members spend nearly all of their waking hours participating in good deeds. These deeds may vary widely per person participating. For instance, some may choose to build or repair houses while others cook or clean, and more hunt or gather food. Still, they are all physical acts which and performed for the greater good of the community and its continued survival.
 
Charity
Related heavily to the theme of Sacrifice, Charity forms what is undeniably one of the central aspects of celebration during the festival. After all, it was through a combination of both charity and sacrifice from Imalda that the early settlers survived.   After the first three days are spent doing good deeds in sacrifice, Tolarans across the nation spend the next three giving additional gifts of charity. These gifts may include gold, food baskets, clothing, blankets, or other staples of survival. Regardless of what they contain, however, they are always given out to those families within their communities who are in the most need- whether because they are impoverished, have recently been widowed or had a child, and so on and so forth.
 
Death & Remembrance
A lesser spoken about theme of Semain e'Imalda Fenenia, but a theme none the less, is the theme of death. Specifically, the death of the first settlers who did not survive long enough to benefit from Imalda's discoveries. In recent years, however, this theme has also expanded to include certain recently deceased members of a community- including those who died from disease, victims of tragedy, those who are taken by exposure, starvation, other elements of impoverishment, or those who otherwise fail to meet their needs of survival for whatever reason.   These dead are most commonly celebrated on the last day of Semain e'Imalda Fenenia; starting at sundown, each person across the continent upholds a vow of silence in honor of the dead. Magical lanterns and other means of lighting are doused, and each public area of town is lit with thousands (if not millions) of small candles- setting each town awash with flickering firelight as an ode to the early Tolaran method of disposing of the dead through cremation. The rest of the night is spent with the community preparing small lanterns made of thin paper and wood. At dawn these lanterns are released into the air as a last act of thanks for the community's survival, and a final goodbye to the dead who didn't make it to see their next dawn.
 

Regional Variations

 

E'inaran Settlements

  Solar Elves, perhaps more than anyone, have retained the greatest emphasis on Imalda e'Yisonn during the festival; while not considered Divine, they revere her as the mother of their kind in Tolara and venerate her as a Saintly figure of sorts. As a result, E'inaran cities often feature prominant statues of her. The Amatis flower can be found planted not only in places that honor her, but also all over their cities- climbing up walls and across rooftops chaotically. Additionally, each features a central grove of Laya trees which typically plays a central role in their communal gatherings during the festival.
 

Desert Regions

  While not terribly different from the standard festival, Enethian celebrations still include some peculiarities. Most notably the fact that they do not release and form of lanterns at all- nor do they uphold the common vow of silence on the last day. Instead, these practices are replaced with the communal activity of using sand colored with various herbal dyes (including dyes made from Imelda's Bounty) to draw elaborate portraits and other symbols in common spaces- a traditional practice which includes much chanting, praying, and singing among participants.

Seaside Regions

  Variants in the Safiri and Athimyr coastal regions in particular- as well as the great multitude of Islands which dot the coasts all around the continent of Tolara- are, perhaps, some of the the least recognizable out of all festival variants in many ways.   All seafaring areas specifically emphasize the return of The Golden Duchess and its second crew, and the passing of Imelda's Bounty to the new wave of Tolaran settlers. But though the Athymir Coast retains its emphasis on Imalda e'Yisonn compared to celebrations in the Safiri Coast, in both regions fish are actually what play the central role in the festival. Likewise, ships play the larger roles in these areas than they do anywhere else in Tolara. In fact, these are the only regions where fish and ship imagery in particular makes its primary appearance during the festival at all- an oddity, given the nature of the festival's origins.   During the festival oceanic travelers are given higher regard than terrestrial and avian travelers in all seafaring regions. And peculiarly, fish are considered the guides of not only the dead, but also those lost at Sea. This can best be seen in the fact that these regions do not release lanterns into the air as other areas do- but instead build small wooden boats shaped like fish, which are then decorated with Amatis and candles and released into the ocean at the end of the festival according to the normal custom.
 




Cover image: Trinity College by Henry Be

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Author's Notes

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I absolutely love getting feedback on my setting and its worldbuilding. I love it even more when people poke and prod at it, and ask questions about the things I've built within it. I want both. I actively encourage both. And it makes me incredibly giddy whenever I get either. However, there's a time and a place for critique in particular- mostly when I've actually asked for it (which usually happens in World Anvil's discord server). And when I do ask for critique, there are two major things I politely request that you do not include in your commentary:   ➤ The first is any sort of critique on the way I've chosen to organize or format something; Saleh'Alire is not a narrative world written for reader enjoyment... It's is a living campaign setting for Dungeons and Dragons. To that end, it's written and organized for my players and I, specifically for ease of use during gameplay- and our organization needs are sometimes very different than others'. They are especially diferent, often-times, from how things "should be organized" for reader enjoyment.   ➤ Secondly, is any critique about sentence phrasing and structure, word choice, and so on; unless you've specifically found a typo, or you know for a provable fact I've blatantly misued a word, or something is legitimately unclear explicitly because I've worded it too strangely? Then respectfully: Don't comment on it; as a native English speaker of the SAE dialect, language critique in particular will almost always be unwelcome unless it's absolutely necessary. This is especially true if English is not you first language to begin with. My native dialect is criticized enough as it is for being "wrong", even by fellow native English speakers ... I really don't want to deal with the additional linguistic elitism of "formal english" from Second-Language speakers (no offense intended).   That being said: If you want to ask questions, speculate, or just ramble? Go for it! I love talking about my setting and I'm always happy to answer any questions you have, or entertain any thoughts about it. Praise, of course, is always welcome too (even if it's just a casual "this is great", it still means a lot to authors)- and if you love it, please don't forget to actually show that love by liking it and sharing it around. Because I genuinely do enjoy watching people explore and interact with my setting, and ask questions about it, and I'd definitely love to hear from you... Just be respectful about it, yeah?


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