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TRADITIONS: Twelfth Night

Formal Christmas Dining Table image

TRADITIONS: Twelfth Night

King Pepin 12 Days image from 1780 book Mirth Without MischiefSome traditions are celebrated but the origins are unknown. Twelfth Night is one of them. It arrives on January 5th, twelve days after Christmas. Sound familiar?

Many know the Twelve Days of Christmas song which is believed to have been sung at a ball during King Pepin’s reign (752-768 AD); others give meaning to each line of the song or consider it to be a memory game with each person adding a something new to the song—think of the memory game “I am going on a picnic and I am going to bring ___________” with the next person adding his/her own item and then repeating the preceding ones in reverse order.

Meanings given to the song may include the numbers like in this paired list of biblical references:

  • A partridge in a pear tree: Jesus
  • Two turtle doves: The Old and New Testaments
  • Three French hens: Faith, hope, and love
  • Four calling birds: The Four Gospels
  • Five gold rings: The Torah/Pentateuch, first five books of the Old Testament
  • Six geese a-laying: The six days of Creation
  • Seven swans a-swimming: Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • Eight maids a-milking: Eight Beatitudes
  • Nine ladies dancing: Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
  • Ten lords a-leaping: The Ten Commandments
  • Eleven pipers piping: The eleven faithful apostles
  • Twelve drummers drumming: Twelve points of the Apostles Creed

While Twelfth Night can be meaningful in many ways, its true meaning is a bit mottled. For my husband and me, it is a chance to quietly spend the last of the holiday season in celebratory fashion with dear friends.

For us, this year’s Twelfth Night will be a private, dinner celebration with close friends. Small gifts, often handmade, will be exchanged between individuals, and in our group they usually are simple and/or functional. For instance, I made leather covers for small composition booklets for each person. My husband forged icicle-shaped ice picks.

Whatever your traditions are, make your season merry and bright! From our home to yours, we send the absolute best wishes for Twelfth Night and the new year.

Wonderfully yours,

Alice

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