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Twelfth Night


Most of us know "The 12 Days of Christmas" carol by heart. Published in 1780, this English Carol has delighted the hearts of many over the years. Did you know it's actually based on gift-giving for the entire 12 days of Christmas?

That's right: Christmas is more than just one day! The season is 12 days long: starting on Christmas Day (The Nativity of our Lord) and ends on January 05th, or the Twelfth Night. In some traditions, the twelfth night falls on January 06th, but in the United States, it falls on January 05th. 

January 06 starts the season of Epiphany, the commemoration of when the Wise Men followed the Star to Bethlehem. Upon arrival, they found Jesus and presented him with gifts, recognizing that Jesus was the true Messiah. 

Today being the twelfth night is the official end of Christmas. This used to be celebrated with large festivities and parties. For more information about the celebration, visit Why.Christmas to learn about how Christmas customs have changed over the years. In fact, this festival didn't use to fall in January at all! 

Legend tells us that Christmas decorations should be taken down on the Twelfth Night to release any spirits that may be hovering in the holly and ivy of trees and decorations.  Leaving it up after invites bad luck- and bad agriculture! 

Here are some Twelfth Night customs that you may recognize, albeit in different fashions now:

  • Consuming Wassail, a punch made of hot mulled cider and spices
  • Neighborhood Caroling
  • Baking a King's Cake (to be consumed on Jan 06, the Feast of the Epiphany)
  • Placing the Wise Men in the Nativity Scene as they have finally arrived
Most of these customs have molded and changed in our century, but its neat to know where they came from! 

Literature, such as Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" and Dickens "A Christmas Carol" refer to celebrations that used to take place this evening. 

Today, twelfth night celebrations are pretty much non-existent. One of my friends offers a procrastinator's Christmas Party near the Twelfth Night but it is nothing like what celebrations sound like they used to be.

As we head into 2021, maybe it's time to resurrect these traditions and have some joy and cheer! Or, perhaps you will just spend the evening putting away your Christmas decorations! 

When do you put away your Christmas decorations?

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