The Calends Galas, as the name implies, are galas surrounding key calendrical events, and traditionally occur twice a year. In previous years, when the country was primarily agrarian, the galas happened at the end of the harvest, and at the end of the planting. Now that the country is more industrialized, the final Varhookan of Ikk and the final Varhookan of Conti have been agreed upon for these events.
On the day of the gala, everything else stops. All businesses have the day off, Government offices and banks are all closed, and schools have the day off. While it is not, technically, an "official" holiday, it is understood that no work is going to get done anyway. Every major city has their own Gala, but these tend to be poorly attended, with most people travelling to Folktown for the big Gala there.
The most important source of information about the Calends Galas is the book Gala Rules and Traditions, which is now in its 4th edition. The book has been collated from a variety of ancient documents, newspaper articles, and interviews conducted during Galas. It also contains a selection of winning stories from previous years' contests.
Harvest Calends Gala
Held on the last Varhookan of Ikk, and ostensibly celebrates the completion of the harvest. Since harvest moves from year to year, depending on the weather, it is placed late enough so that harvest is almost guaranteed to be over.
Historical note: In -16 EC, the Fefferberry crop was almost entirely lost due to the Gala coinciding with the extremely late ripening of the berries, and the unusually large influx of birds passing through on their annual migration. The small crop resulted in the fefferberry wine of that vintage being highly sought-after, and very costly.
The Harvest Calends Gala is mostly an agricultural event, with contests for the best produce, best livestock, and many competitions of strength and craft making. The graphorn wrestling contest is always a popular favorite.
The graphorn shall be greased, and shall be released into the ring. The contestant must hold the creature upon the ground for so long as it takes the contestant's partner to drink his flaggon of wine. In the event that it escapes during this period, the flaggon must be refilled. The contest is over when the graphorn has been so pinned, or the contestant's partner has become insensate. (Gala Rules and Traditions, 4th Edition, -23 EC)
Of great importance is the darseed judging. Although conducted in the greatest apparent levity, the contest is very serious, since it determines the cost of darseed for the coming year, which in turn can determine how much darseed farmers can afford to plant for the next season. The contrasts of this event are captured best in the famous painting of the darseed farmer, dressed in his brightly colored clothes, complete with the four-tassled hat and false nose, sitting morosely on his bales of produce, to which is attached a yellow note proclaiming a score of 3, shedding bitter tears into his brightly gloved hands. (The artist responsible for this painting is not known. The painting is currently in the Fine Art Museum in Folktown, under extended loan from the anonymous owner of the work.)
Planting Calends Gala
Held the last Varhookan of Conti, celebrating the end of the work of planting. The actual end of planting varies greatly between crops, regions, and years, but there has not been a conflict in recent memory, as everyone tries to get the work done before the Gala. However, in more than one year, a crop has been unsuccessful by virtue of being planted before the ground was quite thawed.
The Planting Calends Gala is a quieter event, focused more on artistic and literary endeavors, but also with contests involving cooking: cake-making contests, pie-eating contests, and wine and beer contests. In some outlying regions, it is regularly reported that Pyxies arrive in time for the Fefferberry wine contest, although it has been many years since they have been seen in Folktown.
But the highlight of both galas comes just after sunset, when everyone gathers in the great central tent for the story-telling contest. From sundown to the early hours of the next morning, stories are told, with prizes being given in a variety of categories, including funniest, shortest, and scariest. The overall winner of the story contest is crowned the Author Laureate for the six months until the next gala.
The Author Laureate shall be chosen by popular acclaim, and shall tell his story again as the sun rises on the new day. The story shall be transcribed by a designated person, and shall be distributed to school children around Ghyll. The new Author Laureate may live in the Laureate House in Folktown for the following six-month, until the next Gala, if this is desired. (Gala Rules and Traditions, 4th Edition, -23 EC)
Arariax was the Author Laureate for 9 years running, from the Planting Gala in -260 to the Harvest Gala in -251 EC, and many think that he was driven to his self-imposed exile due to the negative effect that this was having on the contests: nobody else thought they would ever have a chance to win, so the quality of storytelling was falling considerably. Most of the well-known authors of the last 200 years have either won the Calends Gala story contest, or at least done very well in it.
These contests are also very important in the historical record of the nation, since for centuries it was at these events that the histories were told, and thus passed on to the younger generations. Unfortunately, with the advent of readily available printed books, this tradition has started to die out, and many of the old stories have all but passed from memory. Both the Cranee Historical Society and the Bureau of Forgotten Knowledge are watching this trend with great interest, if with somewhat differing goals in mind. And, indeed, there is a promising upsurge of interest in the old stories of late, with last year's Author Laureate being awarded to Mork Wasterson, a 87-year-old man, for the telling of his experiences on the day of the Earthquake of Fluyr.
As he told the tale, it was as though we were there with him, and he was again just 13, running home from the Baleman as the trembling earth tried to toss him to the ground. (Folktown Records, special Gala report)
Stories told during the Gala are immediately consigned to the public domain, promoting their widespread retelling. It is not uncommon for the same story to be told year after year, but with embellishments and regional flavor added. In fact, many stories are almost considered to be a necessary part of the traditional competition, and it is thought to be a bad omen for some of them to be missing. The story of the origins of the Aelfants is one such story, leading to the widespread misconception, held by the unfortunates who have never seen one, that Aelfants are mythical.
--DrBacchus 09:07, 21 Sep 2004 (EDT)
Great write-up Doc. You do me proud, remindin' folks of my story "The Epic of the Aelfants." I would have won Author Laureate the first year I told it too, if it weren't for old You Know Who, whose name I still don't mention. But I aint bitter. Long as the "Epic" keeps gettin' told, I'm happy. Like I said, great write-up Doc. Keep up the good work. --Qwentyth Pyre 18:48, 21 Sep 2004 (EDT)