Path of the Polestars
Although a number of means exist for marking the days and the passage of time during a year, nearly all folk in Faerûn have adopted the Calendar of Harptos. Even the cultures and races that don’t favor this method of marking time are aware of it, with the result that it is recognized across nearly all races, languages, and cultures.
A year on Toril consists of 365 days. In the Calendar of Harptos, the year is divided into twelve months of thirty days, loosely following the synodic cycle of Selûne, the moon. A month is made up of three tendays, also known as rides. Five annual holidays, falling between the months, complete the 365-day calendar. Once every four years, the Calendar of Harptos includes Shieldmeet as a “leap day” following Midsummer.
Individual days of a tenday have no special names. Instead, they are denoted by counting from the beginning of the period (“first day,” “second day,” and so on). Days of the month are designated by a number and the month name. For example, sages would record an event as occurring on “1 Mirtul” or “27 Uktar.” People might also refer to a given day by its relationship to the current date (“two tendays from today”) or the nearest holiday (“three days past Greengrass”).
Our journey begins in 1490 DR, known as the Year of the Star Walker’s Return, well into the 3rd Tenday of Highsun, on the 24th day of Eleasias.
Special Calendar Days
Every nation, faith, and culture across Faerûn has its own special festivals and holidays, the observances of which are governed by the cycles of the sun, the moon, the stars, or some other event. In addition, the Calendar of Harptos specifies five annual festivals keyed to the changing of the seasons and one quadrennial festival that are observed in almost every land, with particular celebrations varying based on local traditions and popular faiths.
The first festival day of the year is known generally as Midwinter, though some people name it differently. Nobles and monarchs of the Heartlands look to the High Festival of Winter as a day to commemorate or renew alliances. Commoners in the North, the Moonsea, and other, colder climes celebrate Deadwinter Day as a marking of the midpoint of the cold season, with hard times still ahead, but some of the worst days now past.
The traditional beginning of spring, Greengrass is celebrated by the display of freshly cut flowers (grown in special hothouses wherever the climate doesn’t permit flowers so early) that are given as gifts to the gods or spread among the fields in hopes of a bountiful and speedy growing season.
The midpoint of summer is a day of feasting, carousing, betrothals, and basking in the pleasant weather. Storms on Midsummer night are seen as bad omens and signs of ill fortune, and sometimes interpreted as divine disapproval of the romances or marriages sparked by the day’s events.
The great holiday of the Calendar of Harptos, Shieldmeet occurs once every four years immediately after Midsummer. It is a day for plain speaking and open council between rulers and their subjects, for the renewal of pacts and contracts, and for treaty-making between peoples. Many tournaments and contests of skill are held on Shieldmeet, and most faiths mark the holiday by emphasizing one of their key tenets. The next Shieldmeet will be observed in 1492 DR.
A day of feasting and thanks, Highharvestide marks the fall harvest. Most humans give thanks to Chauntea on this day for a plentiful bounty before winter approaches. Many who make their living by traveling road or sea set out immediately following the holiday, before winter comes on in full force and blocks mountain passes and harbors.
The Feast of the Moon
As nights lengthen and winter winds begin to approach, the Feast of the Moon is the time when people celebrate their ancestors and their honored dead. During festivals on this day, people gather to share stories and legends, offer prayers for the fallen, and prepare for the coming cold.
The Shifting of the Seasons
As part of the Second Sundering, astronomers and navigators who closely watched the stars couldn’t fail to see that there were nights when they seemed to hang in the sky. The winter of 1487-1488 DR lasted longer than normal. It was then noted that the solstices and equinoxes had somehow shifted, beginning with the spring equinox falling on Greengrass of 1488 DR. The seasons followed suit, with each starting later and ending later.
This shift in seasons has caused some sages, and the priests of Chauntea, to consider changing the marking of some of the annual feast days, but most folk counsel patience, believing that the seasons will fall back to their previous cycle over the coming years.