What special traditions or holiday celebrations does your family observe?
There comes a time in every child’s life where they will gain the keys to their destiny. In a small village on the far north of the continent, the rite of passage to adulthood is accompanied by a visit to the holy woman, the Oracle. She sees the threads of fate that tie her people to one another, to the world around them, and imparts this knowledge to them on the eve of their sixteenth birthday.
It is a tradition wrapped in mystery, as each fortune is personal and private. It is an unspoken rule that you do not speak of your foretold destiny. Lydia had tried asking her mother once, and been severely scolded. Her father understood she was nervous about her own Fortune Day, and eased her concerns. “The things the Oracle tells you may not make any sense when you first hear them. I still haven’t figured out the meaning of one of the things she told me,” he chuckled. “It will become clear in time. Don’t fret over it.”
Several of her friends had already had their Fortune Days. They all had sworn they would be the first to break tradition and tell the others as soon as they knew their own keys. Alana had been the first, but she was as tight-lipped as the older villagers. Priya and Josif followed suit. Lydia thought, of all of them, Priya would talk about it.
“Do you think she puts a spell on us so that we can’t talk about it?” she asked her brother late the night before their ceremony.
“I don’t know,” Luka answered. “I’m afraid.” He squeezed her hand tightly as he trembled.
Lydia returned the pressure and stroked his hair with her other hand. He was the older twin by almost an hour, but she had the more dominant personality. “I promise I’ll tell you mine,” she whispered. “No one can make us have secrets from one another.”
Luka nodded. “Maybe we’ll even get to see her at the same time. Has she ever had twins before?”
“I dunno,” Lydia said, “but that would be awesome.”
Neither got much sleep. They were sure that was also tradition. Their friends had all been glassy eyed the day of their fortune telling, and the twins were no exception.
They were gathering their gifts for the holy woman in the communal garden when a tall, blond man leaned on the railing. “You guys look like hell,” he teased.
Luka’s face flushed under his gaze. Like all the Keyed, Mat seemed much older than they did, though he only had about a year on them. Lydia smirked. “We’re still better looking than you,” she shot back.
Mat laughed. “No one in this village looks as good as you,” he returned with a smirk.
“Luka does,” she countered with a smirk of her own. They were almost identical despite having different genders. They had the same dark eyes and they both wore their dark hair long. It was a running joke that they were impossible to tell apart from the back.
Mat blinked as though he were surprised. “I was talking to Luka,” he grinned.
Lydia laughed with Mat as Luka’s face turned an even brighter shade of red. They’d had this back-and-forth in some form or another several times over the years. Lydia knew Luka’s heart as well as her own. She also knew Mat had never looked at her the same way he looked at Luka when he thought no one was watching. Once this day was over and done with, she would force the two of them to talk out their unspoken feelings.
“Seriously though. You guys will be fine,” he said, distracting her from her plans for him. “It’ll be over in a few minutes and you’ll wonder why we make such a big deal about it.”
“Sounds like someone was disappointed with his fortune,” Lydia taunted. “No fame or glory for our mightiest hunter then?”
“Lydia!” Luka warned.
“Maybe,” Mat said softly. “Maybe not. I guess we’ll see.”
Lydia softened at his tone. She had never heard him so uncertain before. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean-“
“It’s ok,” Mat smiled sadly. Luka shook his head at her. “I should let you be. The Gift is an important part of the ritual and you should be focusing on that, not my childish taunting.” He waved as he turned to go. “May Fortune favor you.”
“Fortune favor you, Mat,” they said in unison.
Luka glowered at Lydia after Mat was gone from sight. “Why did you say that?”
She sighed. “I don’t know. Irritable, I guess. I know, I know,” she raised her palms to halt his interruption, “that’s not an excuse. I’ll apologize properly once we’ve been Keyed.”
They filled their baskets with herbs and tubers. They were supposed to reflect on the generosity of the Oracle as they assembled the Gift, but mostly Lydia just wondered what the holy woman would tell her about her destiny.
They knelt outside the door of the Oracle’s shack when the sun was highest in the sky, their baskets on the ground before them. They sat rigidly as the sun began his decline and the other townspeople prayed over them from time to time. They were offered food and drink but declined all. They would enter the Oracle’s home free of impurities.
As the sky turned to pink, torches infused with incense were lit in the yard. The smoke made Lydia dizzy. Then she remembered she hadn’t eaten all day. Her stomach growled loudly in protest as the thought entered her mind. She banished it quickly. It was almost time. Then they would feast.
The holy woman exited her humble home and stared over the twins heads as though they were permanent fixtures of her yard. The villagers would have mostly assembled behind them now. She raised her cane and pointed it at Luka. So, it would be one at a time after all.
He bowed from his seated position and reached for his Gift in one fluid motion. Seamlessly, he stood with the basket and made his way to the Oracle, presenting the Gift with his head still bowed. She would not accept it. She turned to walk back into the house as one of her disciples retrieved the basket from Luka’s hands. Head held high, he followed her into the house.
An oppressive silence followed. The village was holding its breath. Lydia caught herself doing the same and absently wondered why. She remembered doing it for her friends and for all those who had come before her but now that she was about to be Keyed she wondered what the point was.
The door to the shack opened and Luka stood on the landing, wide-eyed. His name erupted from the crowd behind her. They chanted it, as was tradition, but Lydia didn’t join in. She was transfixed by the utter horror etched onto her brother’s face. Did everyone come out looking like that? What had the Oracle told him?
An icy cold gripped her stomach as she realized she was next. Luka walked down the steps, one brave step at a time. He seemed calm by the time he made it back to her side. He didn’t look at her as he walked to the crowd of villagers waiting to embrace him and welcome him as an adult.
The commotion died down as the holy woman returned to the landing. She repeated her gestures, gazing out over the villagers, pretending not to notice Lydia rigid on her knees before her, raising her cane to beckon her. Lydia went through the motions as she had watched Luka perform them moments before, and countless others over the course of her childhood.
The door shut behind her with a deafening thud. Had it been that loud when Luka went through? She followed the Oracle to a small room at the back of the house. The far wall had a mural depicting a weaver working a massive loom. The loose threads spread up to the ceiling and down to the floor, waiting to be woven into the tapestry. A shelf of candles illuminated the painting and provided light to a small bench in front of the wall.
Lydia sat on the bench and glanced warily at the Oracle. She did not know what was supposed to happen next, so she kept her mouth shut. The old woman stood in front of the mural with one hand pressed to the wall, muttering under her breath. Abruptly she jerked her hand away and turned to Lydia.
“Your hands, child, your hands!” she urged. Lydia jumped and held her hands out for the old woman to examine. Roughly, she took them in her own, peered at them for the barest of moments, then clasped both her hands around them and shuddered.
“What? What’s wrong with my hands?”
The old woman hissed. Lydia wasn’t supposed to speak, only listen. “The power courses through you.” She squeezed Lydia’s hands harder. “You may be the one to save him. Trust your demons but not their master.”
The icy grip on her stomach clenched again. What did that even mean? Demons were not to be trifled with, let alone trusted. Who needed saving? Who did the Oracle think she was? Where did she get off telling people gibberish and saying it was the keys to their destiny?
As the questions raced through her mind, she realized she was being escorted back to the door. The icy feeling in her stomach was replaced by anger. It reached a crescendo as the door opened and her name was shouted across the village. She stared at her family near the front. Luka was still pale. She made her way down the steps toward them and took him in her arms as their parents wrapped them both up in theirs.
Luka’s name rejoined hers as they echoed across the village. She gripped his hand tightly in hers as they were led to the feast. He refused to meet her eyes. She knew he wouldn’t tell her what the Oracle had told him, but she had already made up her mind. Screw tradition. They would make their own destiny.
Notes: Well that came out of the blue. Very loosely based on a dream I had last night, the details of which I will not get into because that’s a whole other story and also because I don’t have all the details straight. You know how dreams are. There was a fortune teller lady though, and she did tell me to trust my demons. Pretty sure she meant my fanfiction characters though.
The prompt book is certainly feeling festive this week. Two prompts about holidays a few days apart. In case it wasn’t clear from Monday’s post, I celebrate Christmas. As I’ve gotten older I’ve really fallen in love with the giving aspect of the holiday. In the days of online wishlists where you can get the “perfect gift” at the click of a button, I still find my own way. I’m a fan of homemade gifts. When money was tighter and I was on a strict budget, Pinterest DIY gift ideas were a lifesaver. They were also far more personal. I strive for that. When the recipient opens their gift and they just know, “wow, this person really put a lot of thought into this gift,” it’s my favorite thing. It’s just a bonus if it also happened to be on their wishlist, or tie in to something on the list that someone else got for them.
Other traditions include big family dinners for Easter and Thanksgiving (but early afternoon, like 1-1:30pm because people have to drive), Easter brunch (hubby’s family is Polish Catholic and they do the meal earlier than mine does), New Year’s Eve Ollie Bollen (Dutch family), and the least harmonious birthday songs to ever grace your ears (when the matriarch is a professional singer, the family will deliver, in every key and tempo at the same time because why not).
What traditions does your family have? It doesn’t have to be holiday related. Jot them down. They might come in useful in the future! Have a great day. I’ll see you tomorrow night!