Christmas and New Year in Animal Crossing

Christmas and New Year in Animal Crossing
The gestures of each gamer are many small rituals. Insert the game into the player and hold the joypad. Viewing the advertising logos before the start menu. The round of crafting and buffs before facing a challenging raid. Careful control of the options and hardware used. The opening and closing of a stream. But it can also be something more personal: from friendlist control to inventory management.

Animal Crossing is the sum of these habits, it's a video game made of almost sacred rituals. We start by checking the mail, we continue with the collection of fruit, fossils, insects. We go on with the buying and selling of turnips, with the continuous relationship with that "unscrupulous" Tom Nook who would like the Villager mortgage to never expire. We end up waiting for the days when some particular NPC can sell us the rarities we need.

Animal Crossing is a daily and inevitable appointment: for some it is as delicate and intense as pruning a garden, for some other short like opening the curtains to let the sunlight in. Each player lets himself be led by an inevitable sequence of actions, but is free to impose his own aesthetic taste, his own rhythm, his own breath.

Watch on YouTube. In its being a program, Animal Crossing needs to invent the unexpected. It introduces thematic events and festivals into its repetitive pattern, which in their constant cycle expand the scope of that ritual made up of collections, gifts to the villagers and seasons that follow one another with their unique characteristics, but basically always the same. After twenty years of sequels, the quantity of events and graphic innovation are not enough to get a grip on the player; Animal Crossing has to stand on variety.

From year to year, Nintendo's bonsai has changed something, and Christmas and New Year's events are no exception. Let's retrace the forms that these parties have taken in the most important slice of life simulator of 2020, starting with the first generation of video games in the series, the one that goes from Animal Forest for Nintendo 64 to Animal Crossing for Game Cube.

Christmas, presented as Toy Day, originally corresponded to December 23, while today it coincides with Christmas Eve. Like all in-game holidays, he pushed the characters around the Wishing Well, where the historic turtle-mayor, Tortimer, lavished his wishes and a gift for the inhabitant. Even then, a much loved NPC appeared, the reindeer Jingle: he appeared from the evening in a red dress, to further reward the players with a set of themed items.

Decorations, lights and new themed clothes enrich the winter of Animal Crossing: New Horizon. In City Folk, in 2008, Jingle hides in homes distributing his arsenal of furniture. The Jingle Series items have green and red textures, laces and images of wrapped gifts. It makes sense that in a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, it is Rudolph who does the job of Santa Claus. From New Leaf, however, things change: Santa Claus becomes the player. Driven to dress for the occasion, he will be tasked with distributing items to neighbors, based on information gathered during the month.

New Horizon, which has introduced a crafting system, does the same and in more invites to produce gift cards. Animal Crossing continues to offer timed items in stores, while thanks to the online component and Nook points it leverages altruism and collaboration between players, so as to recreate the magic of Christmas. Of course all this would not be possible without an ad hoc winter season rendering: snow everywhere, sweaters, caps and decorations transform the island into a magical place.

The Day of Toys has always had a special song, which today as in 2001 has remained unchanged, albeit with some instrumental variations. A peculiarity of New Horizon is that it takes into account the hemisphere in which the player celebrates: in the event that you decide to play in the southern hemisphere, in fact, the musical piece will have maracas and a summer rhythm. The devil is in the details.

Watching a digital Northern Lights can make the last days of the year unforgettable. New Year's Eve is also a recurring holiday in the saga, divided into eve and first day of the year. Late in the evening the countdown begins, set up on a billboard in the main square. The countdown ends with a climax of fireworks, hymns and general cheer. During the day it will be possible to obtain torches, barrels, whistles of various kinds, party hats and other trinkets, such as Tom Nook's party poppers. Until City Folk Tortimer was an integral part of the party, as always with a gift for the player. From New Leaf onwards, Isabelle will do the honors.

On January 1st, it's time to take stock of the past year and plan the next one. In terms of gameplay, it means receiving letters and money, the pulsating engine of Animal Crossing gameplay. But other kinds of gifts will also arrive, such as t-shirts with the date of the new year (City Folk feature) or furniture that represents the animal of the year according to the Chinese calendar (New Leaf). New Horizon does not deviate from tradition, but the countdown starts at 7.00 pm and each island is now open to guests from all over the world.

A final note of color. New Horizon also celebrates the Chinese New Year, which in 2021 will correspond to February 12. Unfortunately the event is limited to the dialogues of the inhabitants and to a letter from the mother of the inhabitant. Considering that in the past this only happened in the South Korean versions of City Folk and New Leaf, there is still another precious "glitch" that interrupts the daily normality of Animal Crossing.

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The reindeer Jingle is the special NPC who is in charge of distributing gifts on Toy Day. This brief excursus, which is a tribute to the depth of the simplest of gestures, is also a magnifying glass on the possibilities offered by video games. You don't always need mind-blowing, ingenious mechanics, or gigantic online hangouts. Sometimes it is enough, to quote a beloved trio of comedians of ours, to notice the cosmos on the dresser: the very close at hand.

In this 2020, Animal Crossing has been used as a political platform, as a safe place and as a point of contact when Covid has isolated friends and neighbors. His holidays are small moments of serenity for those who, perhaps, spend the rest of the year as a Doom Slayer. A universe, in what would seem the small space of an island.

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