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Winter Feivities and Celebrations around the Empire FudgeThisCheese 5th of Nachexen, 2528 years since the coronation of Sigmar In the darkest and coldest periods of the year the folk of the Empire gather for ceremony, celebration and festivities. This occurrence is almost universal across the Old World but especially here in the Empire do we resist the gloom of winter with such fervor. The need to defy the dark and celebrate that the worst is over inherent in all intelligent life has intrigued and confounded me for several years and after many winters of field research I am ready to publish this short leaflet, summarizing my findings of the many different winter traditions throughout the Empire. A more complete book, describing the winter ceremonies of the whole old world, is to follow this limited leaflet. The following is a list traditions, ordered from most common to least common.
Monstille The winter solstice or Monstille in old Riekspiel is generally reserved for Rhya, Taal and Ulric. Where winters are not as severe and where the people live close to nature Rhya and Taal are often the main focus of the Monstille ceremonies. Rhya and Taal are often welcomed at the break of dawn with an animal sacrifice, the meat is then prepared with herbs (juniper berries, pine needles and mustard seeds are commonly used), and cooked over an open fire. As the sun goes down the feast starts, the meat is served and the worshipers toast to their gods with sweetened warm wine, ales and spirits. In the northern parts of the Empire the celebrations are often much more timid. The winters are harsh and it is generally thought of as bad taste to flaunt with feasts and merriment at such a time. The winter equinox belongs to Ulric here. To bid the god farewell for now, and to ward against his wolf children, the people gather around large bonfires. Wolf pelts are hung outside houses and around villages as to deter any wolves hungry enough to not fear the fires. The further north you go, the longer these vigils tend to last. It is very shameful to fall asleep while standing guard and is thought of as an omen of bad luck and hardship to come during the next year.
Year’s Blessing The first day of Nachexen belongs to Verena, the day is called Year’s Blessing. The folk of the Empire walk to the temples of Verena in order to offer sacrifices and to pray for a new year without hardships. This is also the day to bring up grievances so that the new year can start without conflict and spite. In many areas have taken to an uncharacteristic spin on the day, instead of resolving grievances through the judicial process many instead challenge each other in competitions and some times even in fist fights. This is of course not supported by the Cult of Verena and is much to the ire of the followers of the god of justice and knowledge.
Klaus and Khram In the north eastern areas of the Empire the tradition of Klaus and Khram is celebrated the days before Hexenstag. The tradition is based on a legend which I have heard countless variations of. The hero of the story is only known as Klaus 1
and the most common versions are that he either was a benevolent lord or a high priest. At the start of Vorhexen Klaus would pack food, clothes and timber onto a large sleigh and travel from village to village and see to it that the common folk had enough to last until spring. However, in the forests foul things lingered, cold and starved they watched as Klaus gave away meat and pelts to the peasants and a dark fury grew inside these wretched beings. The foulest of them all was Khram, a horned beast-man who especially despised the happy children who could eat themselves full and sleep under warm pelts while he was cold and hungry. The foul Khram gathered a band of malformed beasts and mutants and under the light of Morrslieb they went from house to house. The lesser beasts cared only for the food and clothing that they could steal but Khram had far worse intentions. Khram had made a large sack out of thick leather and padded it so that no noise would escape from it. Khram silently walked through every house and any children he could find he would stuff in his sack. Here most stories vary, often depending on how morbid the storyteller wants to be, but Khram is either said to eat, enslave or just jump up and down on the children inside sack at the end of the night. The next day was filled with sorrow and panic. Klaus led the people into the woods to find the wretched creatures and reclaim what had been taken, but Khram and his followers were gone and so were the children. A year passed with much crying and wailing but as Klaus made his yearly trip at the end of Nachexen he had a fire in his eyes. This year the villagers did not receive warm pelts, hams and tubers. This year Klaus handed out large heavy packages wrapped up in thin leather. The villagers looked confused as they received their gifts but Klaus told them to be joyous and cheer. Khram had of course seen these presents and seen the people cheer and his ire grew ten fold that evening. He gathered his flock and once more under the light of Morrslieb he ventured into the village. This time however the villagers were awake and armed. The cries of the beastly things lasted throughout the night as the villagers took out their anger upon the intruders. Khram, a craven (as most things of chaos are), ran at the first sign of resistance and is still said to roam the woods. Every year at the start of Vorhexen people give gifts to each other and gather for a feast in the name of Klaus. It is common for the local nobility to ride through their domain giving gifts to the common folk. Some villages even have someone dress up as what they think Klaus looked like and hand out gifts to the children. Sometimes even Khram makes an appearance but most often he is only used to scare naughty children, ”Don’t walk into the forrest else Khram might catch you”. In dark times the gestalt of Klaus is used to rouse the people to defend themselves and often a son or a daughter will get their first bow or axe as a gift from Klaus. In some areas a more modern interpretation is being celebrated. The Emperor’s Champion, Ludwig Schwarzhelm, is known as a hero of the commoners and is known to redistribute the wealth of especially tyrannical Nobility. The legend of Klaus often combines with that of Schwarzhelm wherever he travels, which is probably why it has become a more popular celebration in Riekland of all places.
Julebock Nordland has many strange traditions but the strangest must be that of the Julebock. While their eastern Neighbors fear Khram, the Nordlanders teach their children about a goatheaded creature that stands on two legs and gives gifts. Even though the practice could be seen as misguidedly heretical at best it still persist throughout the region. Some scholars believe the tradition originates from Nordlands influx of Norscan settlers but if you ask a Nordlander it is a Nordlander tradition older than the Empire. The Julebock is not simply a kindly being such as Klaus. The julebock is a fickle and tricky creature, a gift might be anything from a doll or a new pair of skis to a nastily worded letter or a mean prank! Children often both fear and love the Julebock. The night when the Julebock comes varies from village to village and so does the practice. In some places the Julebock (in actuality a disguised neighbor or family member) simply throws in the packages through the door, barely letting the children inside get a glimpse of the beastly figure outside. This is also most often the way more mean spirited gifts are 2
delivered. In other areas some person of the household often walks out to gather firewood or see to it that an elderly neighbor is doing alright and just after the person leaves the Julebock arrives! Clad in furs and a goat’s head (often made out of straw) the Julebock is a scary sight for any small child. The Julebock then calls the names of each child and hands them each a gift (if they have been nice). It is very important that a child politely thanks the Julebock for the gift, else the Julebock might change its mind. Gifts are then often exchanged between adults and a simple but festive dinner of pickled herring, rye bread and salted meats is served with large cups of spiced spirits and ale.
Sigmarkind The Sigmarkind, or Sigmar’s child, is a strange tradition from the southern parts of the empire. The child is either said to be an heir of Sigmar or even Sigmar reborn. On the night of Mondstille the Sigmarkind is said to sneak around the house and leave presents for the new generation of the Empire. The child is never seen by the children but as the Sigmarkind leaves, it knocks on the door of the house with its hammer. The actual knock is often made by a parent or older sibling. It is traditional for gifts to be simple and practical but much of the nobility tend to shower their children with extravagant gifts of no real purpose. In larger cities, and especially Nuln, the Sigmarkind often makes an appearance at the yearly winter’s market. Every year a young woman is chosen as the Sigmarkind. She is then dressed in in a beautiful shroud of white and her hair is decorated with winter flowers and fir branches. She then sits on a throne while the children line up. Every child has to first kneel in front of the Sigmarkind, the Sigmarkind then asks them to rise up and ask them what they could give the child for them to better serve the empire. The child then has to explain what they want and why and then thank the Sigmarkind. In many areas the justification for the gift has gotten less and less focus in recent times and sometimes the children are even allowed to sit on the lap of the Sigmarkind as they explain what they wish for. No one knows why the Sigmarkind is a woman but some of my fellow scholars theorize it might have started by a especially pious female elector count, but no one knows for certain. Since Valten was accepted as Sigmar’s Heir by our Emperor Karl Franz it has become more common to give the role of Sigmarkind to young fair-haired men instead. Though I do not want to stray too far from the subject of winter festivities I feel the need to mention that some controversy has surrounded the celebration of Sigmarkind. There has been several claims of sons and daughters sired by Valten and some has even been accepted by the common clergy.
Ice Break Day Often celebrated in coastal communities and some areas around the Riek. Ice Break Day is the first day the ice gets thin enough to break by standing on it. Ice Break Day is locally accepted as the start of spring and sacrifices are made to Rhya, Taal and Manaan. In many areas it is traditional to bathe in the ice cold water. Many courtships begin among the participants due to the following attempts to get warm again since furs and pelts always seem to be in short supply.
Vorfahrennacht In many areas it is common to give thanks to ones ancestors before the new year begins, Vorfahrennacht, or forefather’s night is the last night of the year before Hexensnacht when the spirit world is said to be close ours but not too close. To many of the Empire’s citizens ancestors are just as important as the gods, some say this is why the Empire and the Dwarven Kingdoms remain so close while other says it is a tradition given to us from the Dwarves. Similar to the tradition of Saga celebrated by the dwarves the Vorfahrennacht is a timid night of telling tales and offering sacrifices at the family’s own shrine. Vorfahrennacht is seldom celebrated in areas with many dwarves as people generally are busy celebrating Keg’s End and people instead tend to honor their ancestors with the dwarves during Saga. 3