Midwinter's Day was a religious and civil holiday throughout the Empire of Videssos. Phos' sun was at its lowest in the sky on the winter's solstice and the day was the shortest of the year giving rise to the impression that Skotos would be the victor leading to eternal darkness. Early in the morning of Midwinter's Day, Videssians went to the temples to praise Phos and worship him thus casting their lot with him. Thus strengthened, the sun would return, higher in the sky and for longer days.
After religious services, Videssians celebrated with much eating and drinking. The day gave liberty to the people to behave contrary to custom. Some Priest of Phos disapproved, believing this gave license to inappropriate behavior. True, it led to sins such as fornication (including by some supposed celibate priests), but the civil authorities tolerated it.
Traditionally, large bonfires were lit in town squares and to drive out misfortune people would take turns jumping over the flames calling out "Burn, ill luck!" Also, the liberty of the day led to the formation of troupes of mimes to perform lampoons of everyday life and of the great and the powerful. These men found it best to not only tolerate such behaviour but to laugh twice as hard as anyone else at the mockery they received.
Midwinter's Day in Bridge of the Separator
Due to its northern latitude, the sun was especially low in the sky in Skopentzana on Midwinter's Day. This made the temple worship more urgent since it seemed even more likely that Skotos would triumph over Phos. Likewise, the celebrations afterwards were more energetic with elaborate mime performances.
In the year of the civil war between rival Avtokrators Maleinos II and Stylianos, the troupes mocked that along with their more usual topics. First, a group of women dressed as men (a scandal any other day of the year) entered the city square. They pretended to work for a moment and then repaired to a supposed tavern where they quickly became uproariously drunk. The women in the audience laughed and applauded their approval while the men jeered lewdly. The next troupe were a group of men dressed as women and performed in mirror image to the previous troupe. They pretended to do housework for a moment and then began to mime drinking and gossiping. The audience reaction was reversed with the men applauding and the women jeering.
In quick succession, a troupe came forward pretending to be drunken Halogai which ended in a free-for-all brawl, a group fawning over a pompous fool meant to be the city eparch Zautzes, then a troupe of worshipers being harangued by a sour faced priest meant to be the prelate Rhavas. The next troupe was enormous, representing two armies and each led by a twin. This represented the on going civil war. The twins faced each other in combat and the fighting became a dance. After much twirling each rejoined an army but it wasn't clear if each went back to his original force or to the opposite one. Traditionally, the audience would toss coins as a reward to the performers. This last group proved to be especially popular as the coins included golden ones along with the more usual copper.
The final troupe consisted of a half dozen men in a ring representing the walls of Skopentzana with two men inside with pasteboard models of the temple and the eparch's palace on their heads. Outside men with blond wigs representing the Halogai and other men with bushy false beards and fur and leather clothing representing the Khamorth nomads struggled over who would get to sack the city. They finally compromised by both groups destroying the ring. This performance was met with nervous laughter since it held too much truth.
After the performances, the audiences went back to drinking and carousing. Later that day, a courier arrived with the news that the Khamorth had crossed the border but even this did not dampen the celebrations.
- Christmas, the best-known example among Midwinter's Day's numerous analogs in our world.