The Day of the Phoenix

A Year of the Phoenix is a year containing one additional day in order to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year. Because seasons and astronomical events do not repeat in a whole number of days, a calendar that had the same number of days in each year would, over time, drift with respect to the event it was supposed to track. By occasionally inserting an additional day into the year, the drift can be corrected. A year that does not a Day of the Phoenix is called a common year.

The phoenix is the mythical bird with a colorful plumage and a tail of gold and scarlet. It has a 500 to 1000 year life-cycle, near the end of which it builds itself a nest of twigs that then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix or phoenix egg arises, reborn anew to live again. The new phoenix is destined to live as long as its old self.

This day celebrates the phoenix as the day of its immolation and resurrection. It is a purely secular holiday, not connected to any religion. Every four years, on this date added to the calendar during Tera, great bonfires are lighted in the countryside, or in the common squares in towns and cities. Revelry and dancing around the bonfires, usually including copious amounts of alcohol, culminates in a great sacrifice of a wicker bird, decorated and gaudily painted. Once the mock phoenix is consumed by the flames, the celebration commences indoors. It is considered very bad fortune to remain out of doors (near the sacrificial pyre) until daybreak, where the newborn phoenix is believed to rise again. Legend has it that at one, and only one such site, a precious golden egg may be found in the ashes of the previous night’s bonfire. Communities all gather to clean up the remnants of the festivities, all in anticipation of discovering the lucky golden phoenix egg, which will make them wealthy beyond their imaginations. Although it is said to curse the fortune of the seekers, many fights break out on the morning after, hung over revelers seeking that singular golden treasure. Subsequently, many local laws offer more severe than usual punishment for anyone caught fighting on Shal 1st.

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The Day of the Phoenix

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