Palman Cultural Notes

After I realized I was adding lots of little nuances to Palman society I decided that at least for my own usage I should have a compilation of the stuff I had used thus far. I often review older chapters of mine while working to double check for information I used I used, and for background/non-plot dependant items it is handy to have a resource like this available. Perhaps as a reader you may be interested in reading a little bit about some of the items you may be curious about.


Celebrations and Holidays

Last Week Celebration - Held in the dead of winter, this festival celebrates the changing of one Motavian year to the next. Since the number of weeks in Motavia's orbital year does not divide evenly into sixteen four-week months, this last week is placed "outside" the year in the center of winter. This celebration was established by the first Palman settlers on Motavia and is more or less only celebrated by Motavian-born Palmans and those who immigrants who identify strongly with their new home.

To an outsider the Last Week Celebration appears to be chaotic and prehaps not a way civilized people should behave. It is common courtesy that anything that happens during the Last Week Celebration does not reflect on one's self for the rest of the year, and thus there is a good deal of "cutting loose" by people who would otherwise not do so. Despite this custom, people do not often so loose control of themselves that a social disaster strikes. If someone decides to murder another person during the Last Week Celebration people aren't going to let that slip by!

For the most part, the lowered inhibitions result in single people getting more dates, stomacheaches from eating too much, and excess nausea from excess alcohol. The celebration might not look sophisticated from the Palman-bred Palman's point of view, but it's one way to keep warm and active during the coldest week of the year.

Food

Now before you say what a ridiculous section this is, let me say that food is an important part of any society! It's a fundamental part of any person's life. Not in the least because he/she couldn't survive without it! Over the course of Restoration I've come up with various Palman foods that the characters have been seen eating throughout the story. Naturally since Terran agricultural plants and livestock don't exist in Algo (save perhaps on what remains of Noah or as introduced species) I try to refer to various food groups as broadly as possible (i.e. "tubers", which refer to any underground starch-storing plant rather than than using the word "potato").

Fruit Chips - We humans would simply call them dried fruit, but unlike our run-of-the-mill dried fruit, fruit chips tend to be quite thick, thus perserving a lot more of the pulpy fruit's interior than the thinner sliced stuff in a Terran supermarket. Fruit chips are often served as supplimental dishes (side orders) or appetizers at Palman cafes and casual restaurants.

Jensa - This dish is composed primarily of dark green vegetables (the stem and shoot parts rather than the leaves) and is cooked in a thick spicy red sauce. It is often served along with a plain cereal or grain dish for the diner to use to balance out the spiceness to his/her own taste. Jensa occasionally has diced meat mixed into it, but is found as a completely vegetarian dish as often as it is not.

Melik Juice - Despite the "juice" in its name, melik juice is not a health drink. As readers of Restoration know, it is an alcoholic concoction. Melik juice is made from the fermented sap of the melik plant. It is addictive, but can be consumed in large quantities before the inhimber feels adverse affects. Melik juice is the Palman equivalent of cheap beer.

Sandmelon Cake - A flakey pastry baked in the shape of a flattish biscuit. Sandmelons are one of the few fruits native to Motavia and are noted for their unusual size (considering they're a desert plant). They naturally tend to grow near underground springs and oasises. The husk of the fruit is very thick and cannot be opened without a large knife or object of equal mass and sharpness, but the pulp inside is very gooey and refreshing. Even though it is not very sweet, sandmelon pulp easily lends itself as fruit filling for baked goods. On Motavia the cakes are often used as "birthday food".

(And as a minor note, the taste and texture of sandmelon cakes are modeled off of the Chinese wintermelon cakes, which are a favorite of mine. If you'd like to know what they're supposed to taste like and you are lucky enough to live near a Chinese bakery (I'm not ;_;) I highly recommend trying them out.)

Sano - Even in Algo people have a need to wake up in the morning (or stay up late at night) and sano is the flavorful stimulant drink that does just that. It is served steaming hot at all hours of the day and it often accompanied by fruit chips.

Traditions

Birthdays - As on Earth, birthdays are celebrated by parties, and the amount of people who attend vary from person to person. Some things remain constant, however. At some point in the party the eating table is cleared and food placed in the center of it (the food is often sandmelon cakes). Every attendee and the birthday person takes a lighted candle in hand and circles the table. One by one the guests announce their candles and what their candle represents, then set them down around the food. The candle representation is often a cryptic word or two that describes the present that person is giving. After all the attendees have set their candles down, the birthday person lifts his/her candle and sets it down with the others, using the words "And the last candle; the candle that is me." Then he/she blows all the candles out. The candles need not all go out at once, but needless to say it puts a limit on the size of a party a poor-winded person would hold.

At this point all people around the table join hands and recite "Sa gi na. Sa gi na nei gen." Though modern Palmans have forgotten the precise meanings of those syllables, they believe that at one point in time it was a pseudo-spell to age the person whose birthday had come to pass; thus the reason the word "gen" is included, when the technique gen is known to age living organisms prematurely. After the recitation a preselected friend or family member of the birthday person says "Foi" as he/she uses a modified version of the technique to relight all the candles. With that, the next year of the birthday person's life begins. This entire "ceremony" is often held in the dark, though some people prefer it in the light.

After the ceremonial aging, the party-goers are allowed to eat the food surrounded by the candles and the opening of presents may commence. The birthday person will often attempt to guess the nature of the presents by the clues that were given during the presentation of the candles. The idea is for the hints to be clever and possible to figure out, while at the same time not making the answer too easy to discover.

The twentieth birthday is especially special. Though Palmans begin to sally forth into the grown-up world of making a living beforehand, it is only when they turn twenty that they are truly considered adults. (Think of it as how in many states in the US you can drive once you're 15-16, but you can't drink alcohol until you're 21.) Thus the twentieth birthday is very important and is considered a turning point in a young Palman's life.


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