When Is Twelfth Night?
Twelfth Night is the night of the twelfth day after Christmas. It is one of the oldest festival days of the Christian Church, and was celebrated as long ago as the 3rd Century. Another name for the festival is Epiphany, or the Feast of the Three Kings. It commemorates the showing of the infant Jesus to the three Magi, or holy men, from the East.
Different traditions mark the date of Twelfth Night on either 5 January or 6 January; the Church of England, Mother Church of the Anglican Communion, celebrates Twelfth Night on the 5th and “refers to the night before Epiphany, the day when the nativity story tells us that the wise men visited the infant Jesus”. In Western Church traditions, the Twelfth Night concludes the Twelve Days of Christmas; although, in others, the Twelfth Night can precede the Twelfth Day.
According to tradition Twelfth Night is the day Christmas decorations are taken down. A belief that it is unlucky to leave Christmas decorations hanging after Twelfth Night, originally attached to the festival of Candlemas (2 February), which celebrates the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Other popular Twelfth Night customs include singing Christmas carols, chalking the door, having one’s house blessed, merrymaking, as well as attending church services.
In medieval and Tudor England, Candlemas traditionally marked the end of the Christmas season, although later, Twelfth Night came to signal the end of Christmastide, with a new but related season of Epiphanytide running until Candlemas.
A popular Twelfth Night tradition was to have a bean and pea hidden inside a Twelfth-night cake; the “man who finds the bean in his slice of cake becomes King for the night while the lady who finds a pea in her slice of cake becomes Queen for the night.” Following this selection, Twelfth Night parties would continue and would include the singing of Christmas carols, as well as feasting.