Twelfth Night marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas and the decorations are traditionally taken down now, or they have to stay up all year! Celebrate this ancient festival by baking a special cake, putting on a play or getting involved with a community event.
It was an old English custom to end the holiday season with a big celebration and this was a night for fun and revelry. Traditions included ‘wassailing’ the apple trees and drinking to their health, playing practical jokes on friends and neighbours, gathering the ashes of the Yule log for luck and making lots of noise to chase away evil spirits. A Twelfth Night cake – usually a rich fruit cake – contained a bean and the one who found it was king or queen for the night. Our ancestors believed a new day began at sunset so Twelfth Night is actually the night of 5 January but we now often celebrate it on 6 January. You could bake your own Twelfth Night cake, or indulge in a Christmas tradition that is over a thousand years’ old and perform a Mummers’ play, a kind of early pantomime. Or get connected with your community and celebrate Twelfth Night at these great events:
Pilgrim Morris Men, Guildford 6th January from 7.30pm
Join the Pilgrim Morris Men as they perform the traditional Guildford Mummers’ play in five of the oldest pubs in Guildford. It’s a chance to get dressed up in period costume and sip from the wassail bowl, enjoy some cake and sing along with the Christmas carols.
The Geffrye Museum of the Home, London 6th January 4pm – 5pm
Wrap up and warm and join other revellers to celebrate the end of the holiday season at this free event. Watch the traditional burning of the holly and the ivy, listen to stories about Epiphany, join in with the carols and feast on Twelfth Night cake.
The Lions Twelfth Night Celebrations, London 8th January from 12.45pm
Get yourself down to one of the most lively and diverse Twelfth Night celebrations, with a procession, dancing, storytelling, wassails, a Mummers’ play, and the appearance of the green-clothed Holly Man as he’s rowed along the Thames by hardy volunteers. At the end of the play, traditional Twelfth Night cake is distributed and who knows, you might find a bean or a pea and be crowned king/queen!
The gorgeous picture to illustrate this story is of a Twelfth Night celebration in Norfolk, which is unfortunately full. You can find other Norfolk Broads (a group of women who are devoted to growing old disgracefully!) events here.