The twelve-day, mid-winter festival 'Twelfth Night'
once ended with great public fanfare, has receded to leave behind our truncated modern holiday season that views December 25 and January 1 as its high points, and January 2 as the day life goes back to normal.
The holiday celebrated as Twelfth Night
was a high-spirited mid-winter event whose practices date back to the days of ancient Rome. It evolved from the Roman Saturnalia
festival marking the onset of the winter solstice -- that point in late December when the sun, whose daily arc had reached its lowest, darkest, coldest point, began its rise toward the longer, warmer days that would ultimately cause trees to bud and seeds to sprout in the spring.
By the time of the late Renaissance
, Christmas was a day of low-key observance that opened an annual twelve day festival of religious ceremony and secular celebration. The English word "Yuletide" actually means the twelve-day period between Dec. 25 and Jan. 6. In many communities, large bonfires were set in village centers and, on Christmas eve, each family burned a ceremonial Yule log to start the hearth fire around which its members and visitors would gather throughout the rest of the Christmas festival days. Twelfth Night
is a holiday on January 5 that marks the 12th and final night of the Christmas season. Twelfth Night is the eve before the twelfth day of Christmas or the Epiphany celebration, which commemorates the adoration of the Magi before the infant Jesus.
In Tudor England
, the Twelfth Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve - which we now celebrate as Halloween. A King or 'Lord of Misrule'
would be appointed to run the Christmas festivities, and the Twelfth Night was the end of his period of rule. The common theme was that the normal order of things was reversed. This Lord of Misrule tradition can be traced back to pre-Christian European festivals such as the Celtic festival of Samhain
. The Shakespeare play 'Twelfth Night
', or 'What You Will' was originally written to be performed as a Twelfth Night entertainment - well who'da thunk?
After Twelfth Night, the Carnival season starts, which lasts through Mardi Gras. In some places such as New Orleans, Louisiana, the night of January 6 with the first Carnival celebrations is called Twelfth Night. In some places, Twelfth Night celebrations include food traditions such as the king cake or tortell.
Iced King Cake
The 18th century
's Twelfth Night was a feasting holiday in an era where food presentation itself was a primary entertainment. Darn that bowitch
Christmas gift - it's all her fault that I'm having to go now to finish the last of the season's presentation of chocolate. I may be gone some time.
I wish you all a magical Twelfth Night - I intend to raise a glass or two (or three, or more) of champagne to celebrate the fact that lillianmorgan
is slowly making her way back to LJ land and
for Dancing the Night Away in the Best Romance, Best Future, and Best Author categories.