Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day!

Note: Because of the winter holidays, Reality Makes the Best Fantasy will be taking a break for the rest of 2012. We will return with even more reality for your fantasy January 4th, 2013. Hope you all have a great end to 2012!

In addition, if you read Reality Makes the Best Fantasy and have any suggestions, favorite moments or want to see something covered, let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at trisj at backthatelfup dot com. Here’s to 2013 having more fun, more gaming and more fantasy!

Fireworks at Taipei 101 in 2008. Image by SElefant
Fireworks at Taipei 101 in 2008. Image by SElefant

THE NEW YEAR. Are any of you ready to kick 2012 in the face and embrace 2013 for an awkwardly long time, rocking back and forth, relief washing over your body as 2013 tenses within your desperate hold? That’s what I’m gonna be doing. Hugging it. To my body. Soft music playing. Like Bauhaus, or something.

Out with the old, in with the new. The end of the year is a momentous occasion for many people, the end of a cycle and the start of a new one. It’s a chance to begin again, to put the past behind you and forge ahead with new hopes and expectations.

Many traditions center around destroying or putting away the old and welcoming the new to ensure abundance and prosperity is yours in the New Year. Many people clean their homes, getting rid of old, worn out items, disposing of them in the proper ways. Feasts are prepared, usually items representing prosperity and richness such as pork, pots of beans (the multitude of beans are supposed to represent money), greens and pastries. Special clothing items are worn to ensure good luck; one of my favourites I read about was red underwear. People stay awake and set things on fire and blow up fireworks! In the winter! HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

New Year’s Day is more of the same. More food, wishing good luck in the new year, more visiting with friends and family. In some communities, people exchange gifts to ensure good fortune and again, prosperity in the new year. Many people make resolutions, using the turn of the year as an opportunity to do something new, to change their behaviour. People visit shrines and temples to pray for the new year, make food together (like mochi!), give more gifts and wish each other well.

The end of the year is a time for people to look back and reflect, to see how much they did (or didn’t) accomplish and plan for future projects and undertakings. Unlike some other holidays that can bring frustration, depression or anger, New Year’s Eve and New Years Day tend to be met with a little less ire. Regardless of any number of your affiliations, the turn of the year is a time for everyone to anticipate the best. Reflection yields experience which makes people feel better equipped to deal with whatever the new year can throw at them.

At least one can hope.

What kind of hope can a New Year’s Celebration bring to your campaign?

For GMs

  • When is New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day? What determines the end of the year?
  • What year is it? Are there any projections being made about the coming year (astrologically, economically, agriculturally)?
  • What has the last year been like? What will it take in the new year to make it better than the one about to slip away?
  • What foods are traditionally eaten on the New Year?
  • How is the passing of the New Year shared? Bells? Gongs? Fireworks? Trumpets?
  • What are important ‘firsts’ of the new year? First person you see? First joke? First animal seen?
  • What traditions are done to ensure the new year will be good? Cleaning, both physical and ritual? New clothes obtained? Offerings? Gift giving?
  • How do traditions vary from country to country?
  • What represents the New Year? A baby? A seedling? Something else?
  • Are there EXPLOSIONS?

Plot Hooks

  • The PCs are hired to help clean a large home for the New Years celebrations, getting things in order for a huge party to take place later that evening. When they discover a secret corridor that leads to an unknown part of the house, they must decide whether they should investigate or continue with their cleaning. Where does the tunnel seem to lead? What do they think is down there? How does the tunnel relate to their employer?
  • The PCs visit the local shrine and make public resolutions as is the custom. They can now spend the rest of the campaign keeping themselves in check regarding their resolutions. What do the PCs resolve to do? What will it mean if they break their resolutions?
  • While the PCs are wandering in a strange land, they are drawn to a village holding a large celebration. As one of them is the first stranger to enter the village in the New Year, they are charged with being in charge of the village for a set amount of time, as is the tradition. Which of the PCs wandered in first? What will the villagers do if they try to leave? What kind of duties does the job entail?
  • The personification of the New Year, a religious clergy member dressed as the ‘old year’ must be ‘hunted down’ in a parade and laid to rest so the ‘new year’ can be born. In the midst of the parade, the person goes missing, leaving the crowd nervous and wondering if it’s a bad omen for the new year. The PCs must find the ‘old year’ before the new year is here so the theatrical ritual can be carried out. What happened to the ‘old year’? Who has told the PCs to find it? Does the onlooking population know the ‘old year’ is missing or have they been led to believe it is a new part of the ritual? Is the identity of the new person playing the ‘old year’ known? Where is the ‘new year’?

For PCs

  • How has this last year treated you?
  • How do you break up time, regarding goals?
  • What were your goals for the last year? Did you meet them?
  • What are your goals for the new year? Do you tell anyone about them or keep them to yourself?
  • What traditions must be observed in order to promote success in the new year?

What say you? How can you be sure to have a Happy New Year in-game?


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