The New Life Festival is a Tamriel-wide event that celebrates the birth of a new year, and celebrates the death of the old year. In contrast to the Old Life Festival, New Life takes place at the beginning of Morning Star. It was originally the celebration of the sun god, Magnus, but over time it changed into a celebration of the gift of New Life, heralded by the sun. The New Life Festival also marks the start of the Winter Solstice, when Magnus the Sun begins his return, and the days start to grow longer. Almost all major races in Tamriel celebrate the New Life Festival in their own unique cultural way, and the celebrations themselves have been known to change over time. Many of the celebrations are symbolic of a historical event or have some form of deeper meaning. Celebrations include races, feasts, games and dancing.
In the Third Era, the reigning Emperor was known to give a New Life Address during this period, and many provinces observed the tradition of free ale in all taverns. All across Tamriel, various citizens from all walks of life take up the mantle of New Life Herald, and offer assistance to people who wish to take part in the festivities. Not all people support the festival however. Some believe that engaging in such "frivolity and hedonistic behavior" in times of great peril is an affront to the teachings of Jhunal and Stuhn. Conversely, many merchants attribute a large portion of their annual income to the festival.
Events coinciding with New Life is Clavicus Vile's summoning day. The Serpent is also believed to hatch from a Celestial egg, dropping its ivory egg tooth down to Tamriel to slither across the sky for another year.
Traditional celebrations including food, drink, games, and dance are common. The Dunmer of Ebonheart celebrate the New Life with an act of defiance. When dancing was very briefly outlawed in the city, the citizens found a way around it by promptly inventing the Lava Foot Stomp. A dance they called a necessity, should their boot ever catch aflame, and performed it various taverns across town.
The Breton holiday known as Saturalia is a celebration that heralds the New Life Festival, and is held in Wayrest on the 25th of Evening Star. Saturalia shares many similarities to the New Life Festival, one is a shared tradition of decorating evergreen trees with elaborate decorations, and are topped with a shining light ornament on its peak. Evergreen trees are chosen because they are associated with resilience and rebirth. Gift giving is another thing shared, and "giving gifts" are placed under these festive trees. Despite being used in both Saturalia and the New Life Festival, these festive trees are dubbed Saturalia Trees. The Bretons also celebrate the New Life Festival. An example is that the Alcaire Castle, after recovering from a bloody war, developed a New Life Festival tradition called the Castle Charm Challenge where participants must entertain the castle's inhabitants with a daring performance. This celebration gave the survivors a chance to heal and laugh once more.
The Old Life Festival, primarily an Imperial tradition, compliments the New Life Festival, and are considered two sides of the same coin. The Old Life Festival is necessary because to pass into the new year, you must acknowledge the old. Dark tales and unsettling songs are told as part of the Old Life traditions to commemorate the shortening of the days with Old Life. One of these stories that is relevant to New Life is dubbed The Wolf That Craved the Sky, and involves Storihbeg,[UOL 1] Hircine's Skinchanger aspect. The Reachmen version states that with the coming of the New Life Festival, two of Hircine's aspects come to conflict with each other. New Life marks the winter solstice, when the days begin to lengthen due to the return of the sun. Storihbeg the Man-Beast thus pursues the sun in an attempt to eat it, an effort to keep the nights longer. To prevent this, Reachmen summon Hrokkibeg the Mighty Bear to keep Storihbeg constrained.[UOL 1]
In the Nordic version of the tale, the Skinchanger has an endless hunger which once drove it to feast on the volcanoes of Morrowind and drink the Iliac Bay dry, thus creating the Alik'r Desert, before using Valenwood's trees for its oral hygiene. Seeing the moons untroubled, Storihbeg threatened to consume them. The agile Wolf claimed he could jump from the highest mountain to reach the moons, to which the moons responded that everyone would know they went missing. The Skinchanger said he could assume their forms, his eyes replicating their moonlight. But the moons then pointed out that the sun would know that the moons were no longer what they appeared. Storihbeg merely replied that he would eat the sun too, as well as all the stars. After his feast, the world would be filled with nothing but darkness, and he would then engulf the world and let out a howl. Yet the moons mocked the Wolf, stating that the sun's light is too rich of a meal. And so to prove them wrong, the Skinchanger waited for the sun to be at its weakest (when the Old Life Festival is celebrated), but the sun had other plans: it flared and burned bright (coinciding with the New Life Festival) and stopped the devourer in its tracks, sending it yelping away in pain.
Bosmer immigrants to Auridon introduced the locals of Skywatch to the Mud Ball Merriment, a game where balls of mud are thrown at everyone. Each year, the Bosmer also agree upon a specific target that they feel needs to be humbled the most. The Redguards of Bergama partake in the Signal Fire Sprint. A race to light several beacons around the city. This is to honor the sacrifice of an ancestor who saved Bergama from certain doom. The Orcs of Betnikh celebrate through a constant party, known as the Stonetooth Bash. Food, drink, and festivities are at the heart of their New Life celebration.
Not all celebrations are lavish, grand events. The Altmer of Haven celebrate through the simple act of charity. Known as the War Orphan's Sojourn, participants travel to a temple in the heart of Grahtwood and donate what they can, be it their gold or their time. Similarly, the Argonians of Hissmir have the Fish Boon Feast, one of Shadowfen's oldest celebrations. Those who are able to fish bring back food for those who are unable to. This is to remind them that it warms the heart to feed the hungry and to help those who are truly in need.
The Khajiit of Rawl'kha celebrate the New Life Festival by finding true wealth in their actions. They honor their trickster god, Rajhin, with the Trial of the Five-Clawed Guile. The challenge involves stealing coins from either locked boxes, or the pockets of a previous winner. This shows the participant has such little regard for barriers as Rajhin did.
More obscure celebrations include that of the Nords of Lower Yorgrim, who celebrate by travelling to remote places, stripping down and leaping into freezing water, then drying off by a large fire among fellow participants. This is to show that they aren't afraid of what the cold brings, and that at the end of a winter's journey is a warm fire and good company. Wise-Wing the Owl is associated in northern Tamriel with the Nordic god Jhunal, and is said to warn the unwary away from graveyards and witches' covens during the New Life Festival.
Maormer do not celebrate New Life. New Life is not viewed positively by Vampires, Werewolves, and Undead, for the turn of the year means the eventual return of longer days, and so they dance in darkness in hopes to hinder Magnus' return.[UOL 1]
The New Life Festival in Eastmarch, 2E 582
- Spread Holiday Cheer During The New Life Festival on the official ESO website
- From Old Life To New — Botjolf Meadwarmer
- Breda's dialogue in ESO
- The New Life Festival quest in ESO
- New Life Festival description in Daggerfall
- Meet This Year's Officiate - Breda — Breda
- The Serpent's Egg-Tooth
- Saturalia Tree Decoration in Blades
- Grand Saturalia Tree Decoration in Blades
- New Life Festival Box on the official UESP ESO item database
- Saturalia Grove Decoration in Blades
- Petronius Galenus's dialogue in ESO
- Aubatha's dialogue in ESO
- Tumira's dialogue in ESO
- Crown Store Showcase
Note: the following references are not from official sources. They are included to provide a rounder background to this article, but may not reflect established lore.