The twelfth night of Christmas. Start counting from the night of December 24th/25th. Days used to start in the evening, after the end of the previous day at sun set. Hence Christmas Eve is Christmas evening, the start of Christmas (i.e. Christmas day). Hallowe’en is the same, the evening of the following All Hallows or Saints Day (followed close upon by All souls day). To which day would you allocate night? Surely not to two days – that’s just crazy. These days we seem to think that morning starts before the sun comes up – c’mon, how can it be morning before dawn, that’s just upside down and inside out, and in no way agrees with the concept of the arrow of time nor with spacetime – we can’t travel backwards in spacetime you know. “Oh I think I’ll arise really early today” (I say to myself on Twelfth Night Even), “for the festive Twelfth Night celebrations before the day begins – like yesterday!” You can’t have your jam and eat it so the rule is, “Jam today, jam tomorrow, but never jam yesterday.” Because yesterday never comes – right?
From Pepys (This day, 1659/60): “Early came Mr. Vanly to me for his half-year’s rent, which I had not in the house, but took his man to the office and there paid him. Then I went down into the Hall and to Will’s, where Hawly brought a piece of his Cheshire cheese, and we were merry with it.”
Just the right day for making merry with a Cheshire Cheese, could be code though:
On Twelfth Day we were all agreeably surprised with a sort of masquerade, on being dressed into character, and then we were conducted into the library, which was all lighted up and at one end a throne, surrounded by a grove of Orange Trees and other shrubs, and all this was totally unknown to us all! Was it not delightful? I should have liked you very much to have been of the party. Now I will tell you our different characters. Edward and I were the Shepherd King and Queen, Mama a Savoyarde with a Hurdy-Gurdy; Marianne and William her children with a Tambourine and Triangle; Papa and Aunt Louisa– Sir Bertram and Lady Beadmasc, one hundred years old– Aunt L with a great hoop; Aunt H a Pilgrim; Uncle John– a Turk; Elizabeth a flowergirl; Sophia–a fruitgirl; Fanny Cage– a haymaker; George– Harlequin; Henry– Clown; and Charley a Cupid! Was it not a good one for him, sweet fellow! He had a little pair of wings and a bow and arrow! and looked charming.
Besides these great days we had Snapdragon, Bullet Pudding, and Apple in Water, as usual.
Fanny Austen to Miss Dorothy Clapman
January 12, 1806
More excellent stuff on Twelfth Night here. Including:
“In medieval and Tudor England, the Twelfth Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve — now more commonly known as Halloween. The Lord of Misrule symbolizes the world turning upside down. On this day the King and all those who were high would become the peasants and vice versa. At the beginning of the twelfth night festival, a cake that contained a bean was eaten. The person who found the bean would rule the feast. Midnight signaled the end of his rule and the world would return to normal. The common theme was that the normal order of things was reversed. This Lord of Misrule tradition can be traced to pre-Christian European festivals such as the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia.”