The 12th night of Christmas marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas and the Christmas season. When is 12th night? Some traditions consider Christmas day to be the first day of Christmas, making January 5th the 12th night of Christmas. In other traditions, the 12th night and epiphany are the same day and fall on January 6th. The holiday is rarely celebrated in the United States, but you can consider traditional and international t 12th-night celebrations to decide how to celebrate this holiday for yourself.
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What Is the 12th Night?
Epiphany is the day when the three wise men visited Jesus Christ as an infant. In other Christian faiths, it is the day that Jesus was baptized. The 12th night festival celebrates the coming of epiphany and marks the end of the Christmas season. Interestingly, Twelfth Night is also a comedy play written by Shakespeare, possibly intended to be performed as a part of the celebration.
Other 12th Night Traditions
12th Night is a celebration, and holding a ball, or even a masked ball, was a common way to mark the occasion. You can hold your own 12th-night party or masquerade to close out the holiday season. In Elizabethan times, one tradition was for servants to act as nobility and nobility to act as servants during the celebration. While that social structure has largely changed, consider having a lord or lady of misrule oversee the fun and games of your party.
12th-night party games, such as blind man's bluff, were also common at the festivities, as was the tradition of wassailing. Wassailing involved going down to the orchards and firing guns and banging pots and pans to send away any remaining evil spirits and to awaken the trees to produce a new harvest in the coming year. Participants would also sing songs and enjoy their ale or cider.
Celebrate With Food and Drink
No festivity is complete without food and drink. Put out your favorite beverages or go the more traditional route and serve spiced ale or hard cider.
Many 12th -night celebrations included a large feast. However, you can also keep it simple and serve hors d'oeuvres and traditional cakes. King cake, a spice fruitcake, is often associated with 12th night. A twist is to bake a single pea and a single bean inside and the participants who find them in the cake are crowned the king and queen for the party.
12th Night Around the World
While 12th night celebration is not common in the U.S., other countries do celebrate the holiday, some with their own twist. The cake served in Spain is a ring-shaped chocolate cake called roscón. In Spain, the festivities often include a fruit tart or brioche bread.
Not all celebrations focus on the dessert as the traditional food. In Mexico, for example, you will find tomales as the food of choice for the festivities. In Poland, people enjoy a traditional meal that includes a soup called kutya, borsch and varenyky dumplings, along with sweet or savory pastries called szczodraki. In some places in eastern Europe, Epiphany isn't celebrated until January 19 and the celebrations may include a dip in the local lake or river.