A Modern Tradition for The Twelfth Night

POSTED ON Jan 04th 2015 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Entertaining, Holidays

I’m an Advent and Twelve Days of Christmas purist. I wrote the whole thing up last year but keep needing a quick link for the women’s night out on the twelfth night, which I am trying to import from Ireland. (Stuff like this is one of the reasons I keep blogging even though I usually write elsewhere.) The whole Advent and Christmas discussion is here, but this is the bit on the “The Holiday That Time Forgot”:

The end of Christmas used to have its own rich traditions. In addition to being the day decorations had to come down—otherwise they had to be left up all year to avoid bad luck—the Twelfth Night was a bit like childhood Opposite Day only with more mischief. It is The Holiday that Time Forgot, which is a shame because it sounds like loads of fun. From King Bean and Queen Pea to Little Christmas, there are many Twelfth Night traditions one could revive.

The Irish Little Christmas tradition caught my attention. It started out as a women’s tea party, the little cake and sandwich kind. The women socialized after leaving the men at home to do the housework and childcare for the day. In the modern era, it has turned into a women’s night out to celebrate the end of the busy Christmas season.

That’s the tradition I stole. For the past two years I’ve gathered about a dozen of my girlfriends at a local pub to toast the end of Christmas. We’ve had a lovely time and highly recommend the practice.

A warning though, we’ve had some confusion about the date. Determining the Twelfth Night of Christmas isn’t as easy as counting. Different Christian traditions count Christmas differently. Some count Christmas Day as day one, while others count the 26th as the first day of Christmas. And in many old calendars, a day began at sundown the night before. So there is much confusion on whether or not Twelfth Night happens on the night of January 5th or 6th.

If you plan any Twelfth Night festivities, you will need to specify the 5th or 6th of January. When trying to revive and modernize a dormant tradition, I advise simplicity. I called Christmas Day day 1 of Christmas, used the modern midnight as the date line, and, therefore, declared the Twelfth Night the evening of the 12th day which is January 5th.

This will be my third year. We’ve done rain and cold and still had fun. This year the 5th happens to fall on the evening prior to most kids returning to school, so turnout might be smaller than my invite list. But it takes three to cinch it as a habit. So some friends and I will venture out for a half pint at a local pub and raise a glass to the arrival of the Three Wise Men. (Depending on the calendar math used, the twelfth night starts Epiphany, which is when the three kings arrived to meet Christ.)

(I’m a little grouchy that I will have to toast them without Strongbow. The perfect apple cider is distributed by Heineken US, who have apparently decided that the way to expand the US cider marker is not only to add new sweet ciders–Jolly Ranchers in a bottle according to the unimpressed Facebook group–but also to discontinue importing the good, dry cider. Yasha just broke the news to me two days ago, as I swigged my last of my Strongbow stores, hence my grouchiness. The FB group recommended Mangers Irish Cider–Irish cider to import an Irish tradition. That’ll work.)


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