A while back, I wrote about calendars and celebrations in the Empire, the country with which the Shine Cycle is most concerned. Today, apropos of my own birthday last week, I’d like to describe one particular holiday: the King’s Birthday.
Ever since Herald the First, the second king of the Sunshine Kingdom, the timing of the King’s Birthday holiday has had little to do with when the King was actually born—while Sir the Good, his predecessor, was born in late spring, Herald the First was born in mid-autumn. And his birthday happened to be the same day as Sir the Good had died in battle. So the Parliament decided to keep the celebration on its prior date, and this custom extended to the whole Empire when it was formed.
And the celebration is always on that date; moving holidays to create “long week-ends”, or to ensure separate celebrations for fixed events of different calendars that happen to coincide (such as if Unification Day fell on a Sunday), has never been popular in the Empire. (Though festivities are somewhat more subdued if the King’s Birthday happens to fall in Lent and not on a Sunday—which happens, but only rarely.) On the other hand, beginning to celebrate a few hours early or even continuing to celebrate (with a variety of events) for a few days afterward is not unheard of once every few years.
The King’s Birthday is one of the few occasions each year on which the culture not only permits, but encourages, fireworks. (Though not in extravagance—that is reserved for spontaneous celebrations, such as the end of a war or the recovery of a lost ship.) Fireworks are generally discouraged by noise regulations and laws about “disturbances of the peace”—the culture’s tolerance for such things is generally, and deliberately, much lower than ours—but for a few celebrations each year fireworks, and noise in general, become accepted parts of the festivities.
Fireworks are, however, fortunately not the entirety of the King’s Birthday celebrations. What form the remainder takes varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and has varied in the past with the changes in monarch (as each king’s expressed personal preferences are taken into account at least to some extent), but many districts hold balls, speeches, parades, public picnics, and the like. It’s a favorite day to christen new ships, and would probably also be widely used to launch campaigns for public office were this not considered in very poor taste. (As is the use of it for major commercial advertising . . . which is a topic for another day.)
In recent years—starting as an attempt to make a clean break with the customs of the reign of Herald the Fourth, whom history now calls “the Evil”—the national and Imperial governments attempt to introduce some solemnity into the day’s festivities. Each district is encouraged to gather at its cemetery and read the names of those members of the district whose lives were lost in the King’s service (including the army, the Imperial Police, or any number of other occupations) in the past decade or so, and, more importantly, to pray to almighty God for guidance for the king and protection for the nation from ever falling under a tyrant again.
These efforts to make the day somewhat solemn have been somewhat successful, but the day is still one of the least bittersweet celebrations of the year. Most districts make these sober “suggested” events either the beginning or the midpoint of their celebrations, which often end with a grand ball (or as grand as the district can afford) and a final round of fireworks.