Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Celebration of the Long Night

The celebration of the Long Night is the oldest of Elefdar sacred days. It takes place on the winter solstice every year, and symbolizes the end of the old year, and the start of the new year. According to Elefdar history, or perhaps myth, the first Long Night was the birth of their race - specifically, they were born at twilight, just after sunset. This is also the origin of the term “twilight race”, which is occasionally used to refer to the Elefdar. Later corruption in the Mannish common tongue has led to both Elefdar and Dwerden races being referred to as the twilight races.

(Philosophers and sages disagree on how and why this corruption came about, though the most popular idea currently seems to be that from the perspective of Men, the ancient glory of both Elefdar and Dwerden are fading into sunset and the coming of night (thus “twilight”), while the Human race is only beginning to come into its glory, and is considered a “rising sun”. This may just be poetic thinking on the part of a few currently-popular philosophers, rather than having any historical basis.)

Whatever the case, the Elefdar believe that the progenitor of their race, Lofdar, was born just after sunset, in the first twilight of Aerde. He was drawn from the heart of a seedling of Yggdrasil the life-ash, by Illë himself. Lofdar’s wife, Eltahar, was born in the same way some years later, when he desired a companion in his work, and Illë saw fit to grant his wish.

And when Eltahar had born sons and daughters to Lofdar, they taught to their children the story of Lofdar’s birth, and set aside that day, the eve of the last night of the year, as sacred, as well as the next day, the beginning of the year. As the Elefdar spread out from their home island into the rest of Aerde, they took this sacred day with them, and passed its tradition on to later generations. In time, they also passed it to the races of Men and Dwerden, who adopted the holiday as one of their own.

The Elefdar celebrate these two days with much singing and merriment, the telling of tales old and new, and both fasting and feasting. Those having lordship are expected to provide much of the food and entertainment for their people, as part of their lordly duty. The lower classes are only expected to work, in service to their lord and their people, during the holiday. But they take shifts, so that everyone may partake of the festivities at least part of the time. The only time that no work is done, is the Long Night itself, from sunset of the last day of the year, through to sunrise of the next day. Food and drink are set out for anyone to enjoy, but it is only snack food, things that are served cold, and can be eaten with the fingers. Thus, everyone can feed themselves as they desire, and no one is required to serve or even clear dishes. The work begins again after sunrise, and certainly there is plenty of cleanup required, but until then, everyone is encouraged to celebrate the Long Night.

In smaller settlements of Elefdar, the Long Night is a simple celebration with the people themselves performing as singers and players, who enact the great stories out of history and legend. As settlements grow larger and local lords gain more wealth, they will tend to hire professional performers, and put on great pageants in order to display their wealth and generosity. Such is the case in Illithëon, where lord Felaranthir hosts the greatest Long Night celebration pageant of any of the major Elefdar colonies. There is a certain friendly competition between him and the lords of Illumïel and Ildallïe, but in the end, it is commonly recognized that his is still the greatest. Elefdar from other colonies will often make at least one pilgrimage to Illithëon, simply to experience the Long Night celebration.