Twelfth Night: A Night of Kings and Revelry
Each year, December rushes by as we hustle and bustle preparing for Christmas Day. Especially in America, we often find ourselves rushing back to work, or moving on to the next season a little too quickly. Here at Heirloom Art Co. we love the magic and traditions of the days after Christmas. The original twelve days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day and last until the 6th of January. We wrote an article last year about these twelve days and a few of the traditions celebrated around the world. This year we want to focus a bit more on the traditions of the twelfth day of Christmas shared among kings and countrymen.
The evening of January 5th, known as Epiphany Eve or more colloquially as "Twelfth Night" i s the final evening of Christmastide celebrations, and often one of mischief and revelry. Even Shakespeare found the evening the perfect setting for his only Christmas play aptly entitled "Twelfth Night". He originally wrote it to be performed at the end of the Christmas season of 1601-1602.
Epiphany, or King's Day, is celebrated on January 6th, the twelfth day of Christmas. It is a celebration of the arrival of the Magi, or Three Kings, bearing gifts for Jesus. For many this a a second Christmas Day, filled with gift giving and feasting. Any last gifts should be given, some traditions even hold back a few gifts from Christmas to give on Epiphany.
In France, and many other countries, they use these tiny ceramic nativities called "feve", or bean, nativities. On the Epiphany the baby Jesus is baked into a cake to serve at dinner. This gallete de rois, or king cake, is served at dinner. As the slices are cut, the youngest in the room sits under the table, and says the name of the next person to receive a slice. Whoever receives the slice with the baby in it gets crowned "king or queen" of the day.
In Italy, a little old lady known as la Befana (in Russia she is called Baboushka) supposedly gave directions to the Magi on their journey to find the Christ Child. They inviter her to join them, but she said she was too busy with all her chores and house work. Later, she regretted her choice and tried to catch up with them to take a gift to the child king. As legend has it, she now flies around on her broom on Epiphany Eve to deliver gifts to good little children in hopes of finding Jesus. Children in Italy often find a gift from an old lady on a flying broom.
Legends hold that decorations left up after the twelfth day of Christmas are bad luck. For many, this day marks the official end of Christmastide, a time to put away the festive decorations and turn an eye to a new year filled with hope and joy. These are just a few of the traditions and stories celebrated on Epiphany, but we would love to know and share more. If you celebrate, what are some of your traditions? Leave a comment below.
Shop our Epiphany collection here.