Today is Epiphany – the Twelfth Night … the final day in the Twelve Days of Christmas. Thus does the Solstice season come to an end, and everything returns to normal. It is a time for taking down the decorations (if you haven’t done so already) and restoring the house back to order.
There is an old myth that says that if one does fails to take down the holly on this day, then each of the leaves shall turn into a mischievous goblin, ready to wreck havoc on home and hearth. In the old days where the homes were traditionally decorated in greenery such as holly, ivy, mistletoe, and evergreens; such decor would be consigned to the fire and burned as part of a final farewell.
It’s time to end the festivities, but they would still go out with a bang. This final flare of celebration often would be the brightest, with more feasting, more drinking, and more dancing… as if to say that we really don’t want the party to come to an end, but if end it must the let’s do it up in style! As a commenter during the Victorian Era once said:
Christmas goes out in fine style with Twelfth Night. It is a finish worth of the time. Christmas Day was the morning of the season; New Year’s Day was the noon; Twelfth Night is the night…brilliant with the innumerable plates of Twelfth Night Cakes. The whole island (of Britain) keeps court; nay, all Christendom. All the world are Kings and Queens. Everybody is somebody else; and learns at once to laugh at, and to tolerate, characters different from one’s own by enacting them. Cakes, characters, forfeits, lights, theatres, merry rooms, little holiday-faces, and last but not least, the painted sugar on the cakes – all conspires to throw a giddy splendor over the last night of the season.
We can still celebrate the end of the Yuletide with a last triumph. Traditionally, a cake was baked for this day, and a bean hidden somewhere in the mixture and baked along with it. Whoever received the piece of cake with the bean in it was appointed King or Queen for the night, and thus would reign over the festivities.
This custom of a Twelfth Night King could be viewed as a nod to the Christian commemoration of this day as being when the three kings – better known as the Three Wise Men or the Magi – visited the baby Jesus. Others see this as the day of celebration of Christ’s baptism.
However one chooses to recognize and honor the Twelfth Night, when all is said and done the twelve days are over and now we can begin to look forward to the new year and new beginnings. As we put some things away, and return others to nature that they might be reborn again, let us take a moment to give thanks for all the gifts we have received over this Solstice season, and shall we honor the twelve days throughout the next twelve months.