Day of the Vara is a holiday celebrated in the United Empire of Earth (UEE) annually on October 27th. The holiday involves public festivals adorned with decorations in black and green and private gatherings convened to remember and honor the dead. Celebrants dress up as people who have passed away or in other costumes and swap scary stories, especially pertaining to mysterious incidents in space. It is seen by Humans as a day that gives equal weight to the joy of life and the macabre.The Vara
The holiday first originated around 27 October 2557 after the disappearance of the Vara, an exploration vessel orbiting the second planet in the then-recently discovered Hades system. Communications from the Vara to the Rhetor system stopped early in the morning, after captain Tisiphone Heptane sent her initial impressions of the ruined alien cities. Systems on board ceased transmitting ship status reports a few hours later. Though search and rescue teams were dispatched the next day, the Vara and her crew were nowhere to be found. No wreckage or remains were ever located.Origin and Development
In the years following this disappearance, rumors spread among haulers and travelers that something malevolent lurked in the Hades system. People began to avoid flying through it on the anniversary of the Vara’s demise because on that day, the ship and her crew would supposedly return from the dead and haunt the system. Stories would vary about what would happen to those who encountered the ship but all of them touched on fears surrounding space travel: sometimes the undead crew would secretly board passing vessels to sabotage vital systems; other stories had them haunt the living until they went insane and vented their own ship; in some, scavengers would happen across an abandoned spacecraft, only for the frozen bodies aboard to come alive at the worst possible moment. Horror stories like these remain a major part of Day of the Vara.
One of the lighter tales that became popular involved a protagonist who disguised themselves as a Vara crew member, which inspired others to dress as the deceased to protect themselves from bad luck in space travel. Members of Terra’s counterculture picked up on the superstition and threw the first official Day of the Vara event on 27 October 2593. Many attendees dressed as Imperator Ivar Messer I, who had died in 2592, ostensibly to ward off evil. Songs celebrating Messer’s demise that circulated among the crows that night indicated otherwise. Deacon Messer II and the UEE government spun the footage as support for the government and encouraged more Day of the Vara celebrations in 2594, describing it as a way to “fondly remember those who have been lost.” The campaign was successful; today, the holiday is primarily seen as a day to dress up as and honor those who have passed. It was officially established as an annual holiday in 2595.Celebration and Traditions
In addition to wearing costumes, remembering dead loved ones, and swapping scary stories, revelers practice traditions adapted from various other festivals that celebrate the dead, such as indulging in food and drink like spirit cakes and iced wine, lighting candles, and staying up until the first morning light. Those celebrating on space stations rely on the artificial day/night cycle to signal festivity’s end. Many long-term spacers consider it bad luck to skip the holiday, lest they attract unfavorable attention from the dead. Holos of dead loved ones are often brought out and adorned with green and black ribbons, a reference to colors of the Vara crew’s uniforms. A hauler on a job might set up a holo of a dead celebrity and adjust the colors for lack of better options. Those on long haul journeys or on explorer vessels still avoid travel to the Hades system in late October.