Thursday, January 5, 2017

Christmastide 2016: The Twelfth Day

Twelfth Night activities in New Orleans, 1884

Today is the twelfth and final day of Christmas. For some, it will end with feasting, music, dancing, and theater at Twelfth Night festivities. When all the party goers have arrived, each will select a small festival cake or cake slice. Three of those cakes contain a hidden bean or token designating them as the king cake, queen cake and fool cake. The lucky holders of the royal cakes oversee the evening's activities before returning to their normal lives, most likely "below the salt." These Twelfth Night traditions have been part of western culture for over a thousand years.

The King Drinks                                       David Teniers, Flemish, ca. 1669-1690

This day is important among Christians who maintain liturgical traditions: it marks the end of the twelve day festival celebrating the birth of Christ, it is the eve of Epiphany, and it is the beginning of the carnival season ending with Mardi Gras. Those who are reluctant to bid Christmas farewell can take heart knowing that the tradition of Christmastide extends through February 2 or Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.

Here at the our household, we trust that you have experienced a wonder-filled Christmas. May you live throughout this new year in the spirit of Twelfth Night, finding joy and happiness in what often seems a disordered world. In the words of William Shakespeare, who had a bit to say about this evening in Twelfth Night, (Act II, Scene 5):

Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

Great or common, what you will!


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