When looking to write a oneshot or a module for the holiday season, it’s only natural that you might pose this question first: Does the Forgotten Realms have a Christmas holiday? And then, you might ask yourself: If it does have one, how is it celebrated? Does Santa exist? Are his workers elves or gnomes? Does he live in Icewind Dale, or the Elemental Plane of Cold? Should I just use a Faerunian holiday instead?
We’re here to answer a few of those questions, and get you started on a Forgotten Realms module that works perfectly for the winter holidays.
Christmas in the Forgotten Realms
Christmas, strictly speaking, does not exist in the Forgotten Realms. That’s pretty obvious, since Faerun does not have Christianity.
There are some characters that have heard of it, but only if they are capable of dimensional travel to our universe. The famed wizard Elminster, for instance, travels frequently to speak with Ed Greenwood (the “Father of the Forgotten Realms”), ostensibly revealing to him the secrets of the Dungeons and Dragons universe, and learning about our own world in return. In the old Candlekeep forums, Ed revealed that Elminster knows what Christmas is, although he, like most figures and individuals in Faerun, isn’t particularly bothered about the traditions surrounding it.
You can read some of these forums here: Candlekeep Forums
Winter Holidays in the Forgotten Realms
While there isn’t a Christmas equivalent in the Forgotten Realms, there are a number of holidays, many of them falling on the winter solstice, making them something of a Yuletide equivalent. Solstices are major events in a magically powered world, giving cause for celebration (or desecration) to any number of groups and churches. Each of these sects celebrates the solstice in their own way, for good or for evil.
Here are some of our favorites:
Auril’s Ice Dancing
One might expect an ice deity, particularly the Queen of Cold and Frost, to have winter celebrations. One might less expect an evil ice deity to have those celebrations be a night of revelry and ice skating. But the yearly celebrations serve as both a reward and an opportunity for Auril’s followers to recruit unsuspecting civilians, who might not realize the danger they are in until they are already in the goddess’ icy grasp.
Although a mortal enemy of Auril, this chaotic-good nature goddess celebrates the winter solstice in a fairly comparable manner. Of course, Shiallia’s celebrations are born of genuine joy for natural phenomena, and a desire to create a wonderful, magical experience for those who gather together in joy, rather than a duplicitous attempt at gaining worshippers. Her celebrations often double as wedding ceremonies for those hoping to gain the blessing of the Daughter of the High Forest.
Despite the abundance of evil deities in the Forgotten Realms, few are so purely sinister as Gargauth, the Hidden Lord. While he acts as a demigod of political corruption and malice on the material plane, his followers believe that he will one day take control of Faerun, turn it into the tenth layer of the hells, and rule it as he once ruled there. Each midwinter, they preemptively celebrate this day with bloody ritual sacrifices.
Vhaerun and the Masked Lord’s Embrace
For followers of Vhaerun, the Masked Lord and patron of male drow, the focus of midwinter is the long nights, during which they draw closer to the power of their god, who is heavily associated with shadow and darkness. Every midwinter, Vhaerun’s followers gain the divine ability to cast magical darkness around themselves. They then stay in this darkness, without any sound, sight, or senses, contemplating their god and his goals in total sensory deprivation.
Rather than being either joyous or disturbing in nature, worshipers of the Mulhorandi god Osiris (yes, he is also the Egyptian god) use the day to solemnly resecure and sanctify their crypts and burial chambers. This is especially important to followers of the Judge of the Dead, who spend a great deal of their time protecting their late kin. Of course, this holiday went uncelebrated for a long time, since Osiris himself was dead for a great deal of Faerun’s history, having been murdered and later resurrected.
Lliira’s Swords Cast Down
Followers of the Joybringer naturally take the opportunity to celebrate whenever it appears to them. But that isn’t to say that they don’t give special attention to holy days and solstices. On Midwinter, those who follow the goddess of joy and freedom make sure to complete the ritual of Swords Cast Down, in which weapons are placed on the ground and covered in flowers. In the case of midwinter festivities, these flowers are specially summoned by mages. Then, “normal” revelry can commence, with singing, dancing, and pun contests galore!
Callarduran Smoothhand’s Festival of the Star
Even midwinter feels much like any other day to the svirfneblin, deep gnomes who dwell beneath the ground in the Underdark. But their patron deity, the Deep Brother, nevertheless provides them with hope and light enough for the coming year during their Festival of the Star. During this celebration, svirfneblin gather at the edges of underground lakes, watching for phosphorescent fungi to slowly light up and reflect on the still surface of the water. This mimicry of a starry night acts as a reminder that the deep gnomes have not been forgotten by the gods and their kin, and connects them to those who dwell above them.
Loviatar’s Rite of Pain and Purity
Somehow both joyous and disturbing (where most midwinter celebrations only manage one or the other), the rituals of those who follow the Maiden of Pain are particularly disconcerting. Each year, for each seasonal festival, those who worship of the goddess of pain dance with abandon on broken glass, thorns, and barbed wire, all the while goaded on by high priests who lash at them with whips. It’s all the worse in the winter when the cold on bare feet makes everything all the more horrible.
Have you ever run a holiday oneshot or module? Did you use Christmas, or a Forgotten Realms' equivalent of the holiday? How did it go? Let us know in the comments below!