(Recorded by Antonius Aquila, scribe to Pendragon Julius Ambrosius, 64 AR)
Common Names: Y Seeth Perry (nobility), Seethberry Feast (smallfolk and rural areas), I Sîdh Perrhîw (Elvish, pronounced roughly “ih seethe perree”), Oswynberaas (Dwarvish, pronounced “OHSS-ween-ber-awss”), Midwinter’s Peace (a common name everywhere)
Date varies from year to year. Sometime in December - February.
Midwinter's Peace is a day of Sacred Truce. Grudges are set aside, and all are welcome at the feast halls. No fighting is allowed from sunset to sunset. Even in times of war, both sides will lay down arms and the field-camps will blaze with merry fires and singing — though it's rare that soldiers will have the courage to test their opponent's camps' hospitality, there are tales of it happening, some heartwarming, some funny, and many of dubious authenticity or historical accuracy. Editor: I mean, really, Queen Alithera *was* around at the same time as Marcus Lucius Caesar, but did he ever bring his wife to Brittanis (was he even married, or did he only father bastards?), and was he *really* convinced that "loaning her for the night" was part of the holiday's tradition of hospitality? It is a funny song, though...Holly and evergreen feature in the decorations. Editor: Likely because it's WINTER and that's the only color and freshness you've got.
Lighting candles, torches, and fires to brighten the darkness and warm the cold night. Editor: Some things are universal, I suppose.
A "Grace of Evergreen" is painted on the brow, three red berries and two green holly leaves. A simplified version (Editor: for the less artistically inclined) uses simple runes for the leaves.
Pies full of spiced minced things like apple & raisin, meat, mushrooms and root vegetables are traditional in the North.
One tradition is to go out to the woods and sing lullabyes to the trees, wishing them — and the hibernating birds, animals, and seeds around them — deep, peaceful, restful sleep. In most of Brittanis this is just a quaint folk tradition, but there's the underlying assumption that the tradition comes from the Forest of Seridane or the near The Waste, where coaxing the wilds to sleep would be a more life-and-death type of warding.
It is good luck to make offerings to the hearth — usually a pinecone or stick, decorated with evergreen and linen or cotton string in festive colors. These pinecones are often accompanied by a written prayer carried to the gods in the smoke.
The colors of the feast are:
Red - hollyberries, banked embers, and blood. The color of Service.
Green - evergreen, healing, peace, and faith that summer will return. The color of Midwinter's Peace.
Amber - fire, warmth, generosity. The color of Hospitality.
Largesse, Etiquette, and Humility are the Character Values of the day. The Laws of Hospitality and Guest Rights? are scrupulously observed.
Elvish (Both Gael'Dar and Erin'Tar): I Sîdh Perrhîw (literally "The Peace of Mid-Winter" ...as in the middle point of the winter season, not the Solstice). This probably trickled into Common as Y Seeth-Perry, which then became Seethberry, among the commoners. Peasant folklore says that "seethberry" is another name for the holly berry itself, so prominent in decorations and the traditional "Grace of Evergreen" marks upon the brow.
The Tiberians, of course, think that their culture invented it, or had the true origins of it, that it was created by The White Court as a truce among the Gods and a time for forgiveness and peaceful settling of accounts. The Elves were almost amused at their arrogance in forgetting that the holiday was much older than the Tiberian people or their religion.
Free Dwarf Oswynberaas
The Dwarves have a different, somber way to observe the holiday, which they call Oswynberaas.
No dwarf likes to be away from their Freehold at Oswynberaas, but can hold to the spirit of the day by observing the solitary vigil beforehand, and joining the nearest Seethberry Feast to renew friendships, mend alliances, and forge deeper connections with others. Though the Freeholds are enclaves of Dwarven culture, they are not as isolated from the world as Valyngaard was. That isolation contributed to its downfall, and Dwarves are aware that the way to rebuild their people and prevent another Red Prince from rising to dominion is to forge alliances and take their place *within* the world, which is why Freeholds are so often adjacent to cities.
Even in dwarven Freeholds, though the morning and midday feast are spent rebuilding relations with family and neighbors, the afternoon usually sees many Dwarves leaving their freehold to mend friendships, seek forgiveness, and touch base with important allies, business partners, and friends within the nearby city. "Reclaim the lost, rebuild the broken, refuse despair."
Before dawn on the day before Y Seeth-Perry, there is a religious service lamenting the sorrows of loneliness and the emptiness of being cut off from the living connections of the breathing world, and the harsh judgment of the Gods on those who violate laws of kinship, hospitality, and oaths of loyalty.
From there, every Dwarf leaves in silence, not making eye contact with each other. They spend the next 24 hours in isolation, in silent vigil, fasting and meditating on what it would be like to be completely cut off and alone, if no-one they had ever made contact with made it through the night, and they woke up only surrounded by the dead and regrets. It is a harrowing vigil, a "Forge of the Heart" as some rituals are called in Dwarvish. Each Dwarf examines their actions and behavior toward their family, friends, and allies in the past year, with an eye toward examining where they were building, and where they were breaking.
The vigil is a test of the Dwarven resolve to refuse despair, and regrets are forged into resolve to make amends and live with a stronger commitment toward constructive community if they should emerge on the day of Midwinter's Peace and find that they have been judged worthy of another chance at life among the free people of the living.
At dawn on the day of Y Seeth Perry, the dwarves emerge from their self-imposed solitary confinements, and make their way to the great halls to seek out strained kinships and beg forgiveness, make amends, and put all of the last year's petty strains to rest. Even problems that cannot be solved through this ritual of introspection and renewal are at least set aside for the day in the spirit of Midwinter's Peace. After the morning's tears and embraces, there is a great midday feast where the Dwarves eat heartily as they seek to re-ground themselves in their place in the living world.
High Elves are a little exasperated by the Dwarven custom. Most Erin'Tar perform a meditation of self-examination and distancing oneself from worldly ties as a daily discipline, and see it as a refreshing and calming practice. Putting it off for a year to try to do it all at once seems a little undisciplined and reckless, and leaves the Dwarves distraught, overly sentimental, zealous, superstitious, socially codependent, and generally just reinforces what the Erin'Tar see as Dwarven shortcomings. Besides, if the ritual is going to be that sort of death-and-resurrection affair, it shouldn't be done every year — how exhausting, when one lives as long as an Elf! Better to save those sorts of initiatory rituals for rites of passage and truly important events.
Editor: Many Humans spend this day in merriment and feasting, so are a little surprised at the way Dwarves get so earnestly sentimental at this time of year... though it's not unusual for a few humans deep in their cups to be overwhelmed with their love for their fellow people, too. Bawling and "I love you, man" "I love you, dwarf" is not exactly uncommon by the end of the night.