Twelfth Night traditions

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Twelfth Night is traditionally the time to take down your Christmas tree and any other festive decorations. To leave evergreens up in the house after this point is to bring bad luck on the household!


Here are some other Twelfth Night traditions that you might - or might not - be familiar with.

1) Twelfth Night is also known as Epiphany, the date on which the Christian Church celebrates the visit of the Magi to the Christ child.

2) The feast of the Epiphany originated in the East during the third century, in honour of Christ’s baptism.

3) During a special service held at St James’s Palace, London, on 6 January, members of the Royal Household present the Chapel Royal with the three gifts brought to the Christ child by the Magi.

4) At one time, the highlight of the Twelfth Night celebrations was the cutting of the twelfth-cake, which was supposed to have a dried pea or bean hidden somewhere inside it. Whoever found the bean was proclaimed king or queen for the rest of the evening’s fun and frivolity.

5) Another tradition involving a cake, upheld by the cast of the play currently being performed at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, is the eating of the Baddeley Cake. This is as a result of a stipulation made in the last will and testament of one Robert Baddeley, an actor from the eighteenth century, after whom the cake is named.

6) In the West of England Twelfth Night is the time when wassailing ceremonies are carried out.

7) At one time in England, Twelfth Night was known as being a good occasion on which to carry out various good luck rituals, as well as for its religious processions which almost went hand-in-hand with the spirited, and good humoured, revels.

8) One such ritual had farmers lighting bonfires to drive evil spirits away from their farms and fields, the tipsy agriculturalists cheering as they circled the fires to hasten the hobgoblins on their way.

9) There was also the time-honoured guessing game, whereby the (now probably inebriated) farmer had to guess what was being roasted in the kitchen before being permitted to re-enter his own home. This was not as easy as it might sound because his good wife might have something as ridiculously inedible as a shoe turning on the spit.

11) On 6 January you would also find Morris men dancing in the streets, along with fools and hobby-horses.

12) Practical jokes were the name of the game on Twelfth Night and the playing of games – particularly games of chance – with everyone determined to make the most of the last day of the holiday season.

So if you're planning to see Christmas out with a bang...

Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too,
And God bless you, and send you
A happy New Year,
And God send you
A happy New Year.



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