Part One: The Invitation:
Tradition says the 12th night does not actually start until nightfall on January 5th; it’s the celebration of the night when the wise men finally got to Bethlehem, so make sure you you’re clear on that in the invitation. If you need help on designing clever 12th night invitations, view my previous post on creating Valentine’s Day cards!
Part Two: The Feast
Traditionally celebrated with, (as Sir Toby puts it), “cakes and ale,” there’s a lovely recipe for a 12 night cake below.
Picture/ recipe is available here: Jane Austin.com: Twelfth Night cake
A Twelfth Night cake is basically a fruitcake stuffed with spices and dried fruit, that symbolizes of the three kings that came from the orient to Bethlehem all those years ago. One game you can play with your guests is putting a bean in the center of the cake. Tradition holds that whoever finds the bean has good luck for the coming year.
The alternative version favored in France and Switzerland, is made of puff pastry, egg, and rum. Here’s a recipe I found on food.com: Swiss Twelfth night cake
Singing is a big part of 12th night as evidenced in this scene where sir Toby, Mariah and Sir Andrew start singing songs: Act II Scene III
I have taken the liberty of putting down all the songs from 12th night and some YouTube clips of my favorite renditions.
Come Away Death(2014 Shakepeare in the Park Soundtrack
The Wind and Rain (Alabama Shakespeare Festival)
As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts one big part of the Christmas season was appointing a lord of misrule, and ancient tradition that goes back even before Christian times. In the play 12th night Feste basically serves as Lord Of Misrule; he presides over all the games and songs in the house, and he helps Sir Toby baffle Malvolio. In real life a Lord of Misrule presided over each Twelfth Night celebration, choosing which games and dances everyone would engage in.
Most early Twelfth Night celebrations included a masked ball. In the 18th century, merrymakers engaged in a sort of role playing game, where they drew a character based on a popular archetype like the soldier Charles Cuttemdown or Beatrice Bouquet, and had to act like that character the rest of the night. Finally, a holiday that encourages you to LARP!
As I mentioned in my previous post wassail was the quintessential winter beverage and 12 night was not an exception. In this post you can see some photos of me actually making wassail myself in accordance with a trip up recipe I found on the food from the food network’s Alton Brown.
I served this wassail to my in laws on Christmas night, and the only complaint I got was that the weather was a little too hot to enjoy it. I can personally attest that wassail warms you right down to your toes, which is great if you’ve been out caroling in 17th century England, but indoors during the hottest Christmas on record, it was a little uncomfortable- I was already wearing shorts and I was still too hot. My advice is- if you get a white Christmas, enjoy your wassail, but if it’s 60 degrees outside, stick to ale or Madeira, or some other kind of spicy spirit that you can serve
Well, that’s my advice, happy Twelfth Night everyone!