The Feast Of Winter
The Feast of Winter is a human festival which dates back even before our recorded history. Before the Elves came, we celebrated it. Stories tell of humans gathering to pay tribute to the winter spirits before even the Giants came to our lands.
Nobody really remembers how the tradition began, but we certainly know why- ages ago, the spirits would walk the earth side by side with us flesh and blood mortals. They were strange, frightening things that no person could understand and what’s more, none of them suffered from injury or harm and had no fear of death. So when they came through the places people lived, the best thing we could do was head for cover and wait for them to pass. Of all the spirits, the winter ones were some of the worst. Ice and snow spirits could linger in an area for days, covering the ground and killing our plants and livestock and laying whole villages low, forcing people to move for good or face starvation.
This was the shape of things for many a long year, until an old hermit who lived out in the wilds came to town one day, saying how he’d found the secret to dealing with these creatures. He said he could talk to them and even make them understand and do his bidding and, what’s more, he could teach others to do the same.
With that, a plan was hatched. Following the old hermit’s instructions, the people of the town prepared for the next time a winter spirit came rolling through. A great circle was made in the town square with posts and garlands, and tables were set up all around and piled high with food to tempt the creature into approaching. Fortunate for them, they didn’t have long to wait, and shortly afterward a bitter north wind blew in to town.
That’s when the old hermit proved his skill, for he set the townsfolk to dancing in the circle and chanting the words he’d taught them, which would protect them from the icy gale of the spirit’s breath. And as the people sang and danced, the spirit seemed to grow calmer and weaker, fading in and out of sight until, at last, it vanished from view, having been banished somewhere far, far away.
The old man said that the spirit had been appeased, and its power taken from it, but that it would be back again next year. He had to go and teach the other towns and villages what he’d just taught this one but promised the folk- if they remembered, every year on the longest night to hold this feast, to dance and sing- the spirits would never harm them and though winters may be bitter and cold, no more would the people have to fear for their lives, or those of their children and animals.
Now, it’s true that some may say that winter will come and go whether we sing and dance or not, and that the wizards from the College or the Artificers from down south will tell you that the spirits have nothing to do with the seasons… but come the Feast of Winter, you’ll see those same folk, celebrating with the rest of us, eating and drinking and, to be sure, dancing right alongside everyone else.