This portfolio originally appeared in Jump Point 10.1.
Each year, beginning in late January or early February, millions of gilded red envelopes are hidden across the UEE. Those fated to find one will discover a good-luck token or credit intended as a hopeful sign of the year to come. For centuries, giving friends and relatives red envelopes was one way to celebrate the Red Festival. Yet, it wasn’t until the 26th century that hiding the envelopes for anyone to find became part of the tradition after the Banu enthusiastically embraced it as a way to honor Cassa, their Patron of Luck. People took to the new tradition and relished the chance to find a little bit of luck tucked inside a discarded magazine or hiding atop a storage locker at the end of a dark space station hallway.
The Red Festival originated on Earth well before Humanity explored the stars when some early cultures carefully observed the moon and celebrated the start of a new lunar year. The holiday eventually became known as the Red Festival as its reach and influence spiraled further and further away from Earth’s orbit. Still, many of the traditions stayed the same, like wearing red and gold for good luck and exchanging gilded red envelopes. Humanity celebrated these traditions for millennia before colonists took them to Mars when it was settled in the 22nd century. While the Red Festival was celebrated on the red planet, its popularity wouldn’t explode until the early 25th century when an explorer claimed it helped him make history, and many others came to believe that celebrating it would bring luck to their journey.
Today the Red Festival is more popular than ever and widely celebrated across the UEE and Banu Protectorate. So how did a holiday focused on Earth’s lunisolar cycle become so beloved?
The United Nations of Earth (UNE) formed in 2380 to unify all of Earth’s nations under one government. It was a historic moment meant to bring people together and facilitate Humanity’s expansion into the stars. At the time, Earth was in a precarious position. Despite having terraformed Mars and the new system of Croshaw, Humanity’s homeworld was still desperately overcrowded and pristine wilderness increasingly scarce. Pollution choked many major cities and people’s quality of life was in decline. While advances in commercial spacecraft and terraforming tech made living offworld possible, it remained extremely expensive to leave Earth and surprisingly difficult to convince people that life offworld might actually be better. To address the issue, the UNE created the Easten Expansion Program to support navjumpers on their search for new frontiers and encourage people to fill colony ships. The program was met with modest success before being rebranded Project Far Star in 2412. Now considered a key driver of the Human Colonial Expansion Era, Project Far Star opened offices in major cities around Earth to recruit colonists, aid explorers with subsidized ship upgrades, and more.
In late 2429, Wendell Dopse visited the Project Far Star office in Shanghai and submitted an application to purchase a discounted jump drive. The application was approved and Dopse received the component in mid-January of 2430. He rushed to install it then meticulously cleaned his ship so it’d be spotless when the Red Festival began on January 25th. According to legend, Wendell Dopse spent the next two weeks celebrating the Red Festival with his family and reconsidering whether or not to leave them. On the final day of the festival, his family attended a lantern festival where Dopse helped his daughter with a particularly difficult riddle. The two spent hours taking in the impressive lanterns and talking through solutions when the answer suddenly struck him. Dopse looked up and saw a solitary lit red lantern rising through the sky. Away from everything else. Off on its own. Convinced it was a sign, he noted its course. Then he said goodbye to his family, raced to his ship, and flew in the direction the red lantern was headed. Days later Dopse discovered the jump from Sol to Davien, upending contemporary scientific thinking that predicted no additional jump point existed in the Sol system.
SPREAD OF THE RED FESTIVAL
Today, many people wonder if Wendell Dopse’s story about the red lantern might have been embellished. They point to numerous voyages Dopse took into that sector of Sol before receiving his jump drive. On those trips he tested and refined new scanning techniques that, after his discovery of Davien, other explorers adopted and inventors integrated into more advanced jump scanning technology. His success inspired others to try their luck launching on the final day of that year’s Red Festival. The practice became so commonplace that several landing zones were forced to place a cap on launches on that day to reduce congestion. They eventually instituted a lottery system to award launch slots after an investigation by the UNE revealed that some landing zone officials were selling slots to the highest bidder.
Shanghai also became considered a lucky place to launch. People traveled from across the world to leave from that landing zone, and many of them celebrated the Red Festival. For decades, the Project Far Star office in Shanghai recruited and helped send more colonists to live offworld than any other. The colonists’ eagerness to go, combined with their comms about what life was really like on these new worlds, convinced millions more to follow. They did and brought the traditions of the Red Festival with them.
In the 25th century, one of the biggest off-Earth celebrations of the Red Festival occurred in Davien where, in 2438, Humanity first encountered the Banu. Since then, Banu traders became a staple of the system and knew to stock their Merchantmans with red items and gilded envelopes around the Red Festival. While no one knows exactly who hid the first envelope for someone to find, the tradition began in Davien and expanded from there. Hiding and searching for these lucky envelopes became commonplace across the empire by the early 26th century, and as the tradition grew in popularity, so did the Red Festival. All thanks in part to Wendell Dopse’s discovery of Davien, the millions of colonists who celebrated the Red Festival, and the Banu who adopted and evolved its traditions.