January 5 – Twelfth Night

Posted on January 5, 2019

Today is the 12th day of Christmas, and according to the song, our true loves should be showering us with gifts. 

Well, actually, since we don't really give people other people, we need to totally ignore that song with its gifts of drummers and pipers and ladies and lords and maids!!!

Tonight is Twelfth Night. This is a traditional date to end the Christmas season - but it is also a kind of "Epiphany Eve,"
since January 6 is Epiphany, or King's Day, the anniversary of the day when three kings (or magi / wise men, accounts differ) were supposed to have visited the newborn baby Jesus.

There is a lot of variety of how Twelfth Night is celebrated. In some places, this is a common date when people take down all their Christmas decorations, and in some regions of the world, people make Kings Cakes in readiness for the next day. Aside from those chores, some people exchange gifts, go to church services, sing Christmas carols - and of course, festive feasts and visiting friends and family fit into any holiday!

Above, a "king's ring."
Below, wassail.

One custom seems totally unfamiliar to me: chalking the door. Apparently using chalk to write the year and the initials of the traditional names for the three kings (C, M, and B for Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) is supposed to protect the home and those who live there throughout the year, and therefore blessing the house and family. But there is a pattern used that makes the year and initials seem more mysterious - the year is divided into the first and last two digits, and in between are the initials separated by plus signs:




I've never heard of chalking the door, or seen it. Have you?

Above, old-time Twelfth Night parties featured lots of games.
Below, nowadays, apparently, at least in some places,
Twelfth Night parties have a sort of Mardi Gras theme,
complete with masks and beads and Carnival sorts of costumes!

Finally, one of William Shakespeare's plays is named Twelfth Night.

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