It’s Twelfth Night!  Tonight!

Twelfth Night is a festival for those following the Gregorian calendar that takes place on the last night of the Twelve Days of Christmas and marks the coming of the Epiphany tomorrow – January 6th.

What is Twelfth Night all about? Twelfth Night is a night of celebration, partying and merriment where a Twelfth Night cake with a bean or coin inside, (aka King’s Cake in both the UK and the Netherlands; Martha Washington’s Great Cake in the U.S.) is ceremoniously presented and eaten; a crowning of mock royalty happens; lots of music, plays, puppets, theatre and singing; and wassail, a toast of spiced ale or cider (or hot apple juice/cider with a cinnamon stick for flavour) is offered for good health. Yummmm!

In some homes, it’s an excuse for everyone to dress-up a la masquerade.  In other words, Twelfth Night is an opportunity to feast, and play, be silly and have fun!

Historically, around 1601, William Shakespeare wrote his ‘Twelfth Night’ play, a comedy, as entertainment for the close of the Season of Christmas and set the stage for the Twelfth Night feast with Orlando’s words: “If music be the food of love, play on; give me excess of it.”  In 1849, Queen Victoria marked Twelfth Night with an abundance of music, theatre performances and dance for her court which the populace began to imitate.

Many well-known painters depicted the frivolity of Twelfth Night: … Peter Brueghel the Younger painted “The King Drinks” showing the King drinking to himself, a costume procession, general feasting and merry making … Jan Steen, (known as the most prolific of Twelfth Night artists – six on that theme!), focused on the role of music, symbolism of the Epiphany star and the waffles that are served royalty on Twelfth Night, and even included eggshells littered on the floor in one of his paintings. And poets like Robert Herrick’s 1660 “Twelfth Night: Or, King and Queen”):  “Now, now the mirth comes” got into the celebration of the festival.

Let’s re-discover the Twelfth Night, bring some celebration and festive merrymaking into our lives, and welcome the light of the Epiphany when dawn breaks in the morning … in spite of the political tension in many countries, the pandemic that continues to disrupt the world, the war in Ukraine.

Or maybe, let’s re-discover Twelfth Night because of it all. Pick up the phone and call a friend; let social media be the bridge for you to celebrate Twelfth Night. Or simply put some apple juice in a pot on the stove, add a cinnamon stick and when it’s been cooking for a while and has “cooked down”, pour yourself a cuppa and as you gently sip from the cup, consider celebrations in your life in the past that brought you joy and dream of celebrations in the future. Get dressed up – make a crown and put it on your head and crown yourself king/queen for the night. 😉

May this Twelfth Day end with a festive spirit … a spirit filled with joy and hope!
© June Maffin


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Tomorrow – we welcome the Season of Epiphany and its themes of light and images of stars. And yes, “Soulistry” will offer reflections throughout Epiphany. Stay tuned. 🙂

© June Maffin