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Origins: All the major populations of Torn World, even those with no clear stories of the Upheaval, have histories of a time when their world was bounded by barriers. And one day, some traveler noticed the border had changed, or some person from beyond the barrier arrived, and their world got bigger.
Of course, the details of what happened next vary from place to place, but once the Empire was founded, the usual pattern was that the Empire sent a “welcoming committee” to bring the populace into the Empire, by negotiation or by force. (The histories of the Empire highlight the negotiation and downplay the force as much as possible.)
It is presumed that this festival originated in the spontaneous celebrations of people who were delighted to discover new neighbors or trading partners, but the more cynical members of the populace believe that Rejoining Day was from the very start a political festival, a chance for the Empire to improve its image and promote patriotism.
Spread: The Rejoining Festival is celebrated throughout the Empire, though the date varies. The center of the Empire, including the Capital City, celebrates the Rejoining Festival in Spring, one tenday before the New Year. Rejoining was necessary, after all, for the Empire to begin, and as the stories are contradictory as to when and where the first border opening happened, a symbolic date was chosen for the heart of the Empire.
However, once the Empire started keeping proper centralized records, the exact date that other regions became accessible to the Empire was noted, and each region celebrates that date with great pomp and circumstance.
Description of the Celebration: Symbolically, Rejoining Day is treated as the day that a region joined the Empire, as if the border opening made the successful negotiations (or military take-over) a mere formality. Consequently, there are patriotic parades, political rallies, official functions such as swearing in new citizens, and theatrical productions celebrating famous generals, politicians, and explorers.
Although no one complains about a day off, the feature of the celebration that is particularly beloved and most universally celebrated is the Rejoining Feast.
Breakfast on Rejoining Day is limited to the survival foods of regions whose climate or variety of edibles was significantly impoverishedby the shard they were trapped in. Plain root vegetables, fried rodents and insects, rough jerky, grain porridge, dried desert fruits and salted fish are common. Many a cook has been heard to say, “These dishes were chosen to emphasize the challenges our ancestors faced after the Upheaval. And if you don’t like these foods, then go hungry, and remember that before the Empire, starvation was a very real fear.” The morning’s dishes may be primarily from that region, or from many regions, but the principle is the same — before the Empire, life was hard.
But come mid-afternoon, the tables are laden with foods from every corner of the Empire, and everyone, young and old, is allowed to partake of whatever they like best, although each person is expected to at least sample something from each assimilated region or culture. Foods include, but are not limited to roasts, sausages, stuffed meats, fish, shellfish, vegetables and fresh fruits of all descriptions, pies, cakes, cookies, candies, soufflés, stews, soups, breads made from all varieties of flour, pickles, jellies, teas, and cheeses—far more than any one person could cook.
The tables in each residential area are brought outside, or if the festival falls in winter or weather is inclement, to some large hall or tent, and each family brings food. Politicians bring rare or unusual dishes, vying for recognition, patronage, and the chance to give speeches and meet influential citizens. Restaurants and caterers bring dishes to various neighborhoods, advertising their wares. Formal and informal competitions abound for the best pie, best cookies, best meat dish, best presentation, most exotic food,best recipe combining ingredients from distant regions, and so on. Recipes are traded, sold, or kept carefully secret. People take home plates of leftovers.
Nearly all restaurants and caterers are closed the day after Rejoining Day, allowing those workers to also have a day off in honor of the festival. With the abundance of leftover food, this does not cause any disruption of the normal business day for the rest of the populace, and so is tolerated or actively supported by local law.
In some areas, ethnic fairs spring up, with people selling crafts and art in the styles of people all around the Empire. If the only day of the year that you sell such crafts is Rejoining Day, you don’t need a seller’s license, however, if you make significant profit or if the authorities are watching you for any reason, even as little as delivering an item on a later day can get you in trouble. There is a similar rule for accepting tips for music, dance, or other performances, particularly those of an ethnic nature or traditional to a particular shard before the borders opened.
One result of this rule is that it has become a common practice for young performers to use this festival to raise money for a license, most often a performer’s license, but sometimes another type of license. It is estimated that the three other licenses most often bought this way are for marriage, pregnancy, and travel.
There are local variations on this practice, for instance, in poorer areas of the city of Faajaffug, it has become traditional for the groom and his friends to wander the streets, offering lewd tunes or deliberately terrible renditions of popular songs, and singing until their family and neighbors pay them to move along. They keep this up until they grow hoarse or too drunk to sing, or all the license fees have been gathered.
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