Autumnox is a secular holiday widely celebrated in most of Terra Alta. It commemorates the passing of the seasons from Rising (Vernalis, Medivita, and Orsiracticus ) to Falling (Autumnus, Medinex, and Terminoctis); due to a number of factors, it is more widely observed than its counterpart, Vernalia. Most cities and townships have large, official celebrations, and in modern times it is considered to be one of the most culturally-important (or at least culturally-recognized) holidays on the Terraltarian Calendar. It falls on the last full moon of Orsiracticus, likely due to the significance of the lunar cycle in the changing seasons as well as the symbolism inherent in the moon's gradual waning following Autumnox.
While holidays as old as Autumnox are typically very difficult to ascertain the origins of, popular belief holds that it saw its start in the largely-agrarian Plains of Gan Vahln. Most scholars agree that this is a likely explanation, given the celebration's ties to seasonal and harvest cycles; additionally, the earliest recorded mentions of Autmonox exist in the Balliforth Scrolls, tying them to ancient Gan Vahlnian culture.
However, some misguided theorists postulate that Autumnox actually originated in the Valley of Sinad; they argue that Autumnox is derived largely from traditions that stemmed from Sinadic Lunar Worship, which were borrowed by the farmers of Gan Vahln as the civilizations expanded and began intermingling. Given that no Sinadic culture developed written language until well after the Balliforth Scrolls were written, and their ancient oral tradition is largely lost to time, it is impossible to confirm this theory; it is also largely founded on limited knowledge of Sinadic Lunar Worship, as no living practitioners of the ancient traditions remain.
If one compares those few remaining holidays, observances, and traditions that are confirmed to have their origins in old Sinadic religions, however, it becomes clear that Autumnox shares few similarities with any known Sinadic tradition: first, Sinadic timekeeping typically placed significance on the new moon (as seen in the Waxing Festivals and Rite of Rising); second, we can gather from Sinadic textiles and architecture (such as the Caelinian Urn, several of the Spiders' Tapestries, and the Temple at Chandwit) that Sinadic Lunar Worship venerated growth, the Rising seasons, and the moon's waxing cycles, which clashes with Autumnox's status as a celebration of waning and decline; third, and perhaps most importantly, there is little evidence, physical or historical, that Gan Vahlnian and Sinadic civilizations had significant contact before -1239 CE (the Gan Vahlnian Year of the Drowned Rat), when the Wars of the Plains forced Gan Vahlnians to look to their neighbors for aid against Banstraith the Bellicose's forces.
From what we can gather from the Balliforth Scrolls and similar documents, historical observance of Autumnox was similar in many respects to modern observance, but focused much more around the community and agriculture (yet more evidence that its origins lie firmly in the Plains). Typically, the day started slightly before sunrise; the oldest child of the family was dubbed the Dawntender and expected to quietly rouse each other family member one by one with the phrase "Awake, awake, for the end does now begin". This rote mantra is thought to have been drawn from passages from the Covenant of Civilization; the Dawntender's parents and other adults in the house would respond with "Your diligence does you credit, Dawntender.", while other children were to ask "Why must we rise before the sun?"; the Dawntender would then give a brief explanation of the day's activities and their significance, often after gathering all the children together for convenience.
Following the family's rousing, they would gather at a place of significance to the community (often the Polar Crystal or, in larger towns and cities, the Soul Nidus) where an important member of the community's governing body (or simply a widely-respected person) would deliver a speech about tradition, hard work, and the cycles of the seasons as the sun rose. The speech was most frequently delivered by the community's Vincarit or, slightly less often, their Chief Justiciatrix. After the speech concluded, and once the sun could truly have been said to have risen, the collected Dawntenders would engage in a ceremonial First Harvest, typically of early-fruiting black melons or nutflowers. Since the date of Autumnox and the growth habits of most produce vary (as well as due to the unfeasibility of a First Harvest in urban or non-agrarian communities), most families would keep a small, potted whiteberry plant in their house, which they would bring to the Autumnox speech and allow the Dawntenders to ceremonially pick the fruits of those plants should no real crops be ready for harvesting.
Traditions vary widely following the speech, but most involve community activities and celebrations; commonly, there are Whiteberry Jam Jamborees, which serve as both an engaging activity for younger children and a way to make use of the whiteberries produced by the First Harvest. Large cooking competitions and sporting tournaments frequently accompanied the celebrations, and in fact it is from records of Autumnoxes past that we are able to glean the rules to games like Hexaball and River Run. Typically, these diversions would last most of the day, but would cease in the late afternoon. The community would once again gather, this time in whatever building or area was large enough, for a grand feast that would last well into the evening. Most communities would have entertainment at these feasts, usually in the form of prestidigitators, reedpipe players, or minor- to moderate-grade Illusionweavers.
Following the feast's conclusion, families would return to their homes; there, the second-oldest child, called the Duskbringer, would lead each family member to their room one by one. Adults would say "Thank you for your care, Duskbringer."; children were to say "Why must the day end?", to which the Duskbringer was to respond "Everything must end, for it is the way of things. It is with this knowledge that we celebrate what we have, and with this knowledge that we mourn what we will lose."
Modern observance follows, in a very general sense, the same basic format as its historical counterpart; however, given the gradual urbanization of society and the increasingly-large distance most individuals have between themselves and the agriculture that supplies them with their food, many of the community-oriented aspects of the holiday have waned or changed, and modern observance is essentially a small-scale aping of Autmnox tradition.
Dawntenders and Duskbringers are estimated to still be designated only in approximately 37% of households; those that do are 78% likely to exist in low- to sparse-population areas. The First Harvest has been lost entirely, replaced by Whiteberry Plucking. Originally a holdover from old First Harvest traditions, Whiteberry Plucking has lost any semblance of meaning, and is essentially just an excuse to have whiteberries for breakfast or done because that's what has always been done; recently, duraplast whiteberry bushes have become popular, with hollow "whiteberries" that conceal a small sweet. Pre-harvest speeches can still be found across Terra Alta, but most are given by Brothers of the Frond priests, and are essentially Frond sermons rather than the unaffiliated Autumnox speech found in the past.
In most of Terra Alta, Autumnox is a state holiday, and community celebrations that rather resemble those found in the past can still be seen in strong evidence; however, the games played and format follow vary widely with the current trends of the time. As most readers will be aware, Autumnox Squidball tournaments are very widely popular, to the point of being nearly ubiquitous and in fact what most people associate with the holiday; what fewer know is that this tradition has its origins in CE -244, during the reign of Queen Larana the Just, who was an enthusiast of the game to the point of decreeing that a Squidball tournament be held every Autumnox during her entire reign. The game became quite popular even in areas outside Queen Larana's rule, and has outlasted most other legacies from her reign.
Large feasts, however, are seen very rarely; the logistics of organizing such events in ever-larger communities are quite prohibitive, and only a small handful of official Autumnox feasts can be found each year. Replacing these feasts are (comparatively) small-scale family meals, usually centered around a stuffed cranba gourd.
Religious and Regional DifferencesEdit
- Brothers of the Frond adherents typically celebrate Autumnox with fasting and community prayer; Autumnox represents to them the beginning of The Period of Mourning rather than just the onset of Falling, and as such is a solemn occasion.
- Members of the Order of Ottilla refuse to celebrate Autumnox entirely, as it venerates and celebrates the lunar cycle and progression of the seasons.
- Canninians celebrate the Ascension of Cannin on Autumnox, as their prophet and founder was murdered at an Autumnox celebration in CE -812.
- Observation in the Great Desert centers around the tantin cactus rather than whiteberries, but is otherwise very similar; this is likely because little colonization of the Great Desert occurred until well after Autumnox traditions were already well established.
- Autumnox traditions and old tribal religions of the civilizations of the Danscalian Plains have blended oddly, resulting in a holiday that combines a seasonal festival with ancestor worship and animism; kantilep dolls and effigy totems are very much in evidence.