Monday, January 4, 2021

Prepare for Twelfth Night! And Some Broom Lore

the magi epiphany twelfth night

Twelfth Night is celebrated on the Eve of the Epiphany. There is argument among countries as to when to start counting down "the twelve days of Christmas." Some countries count Christmas Day as Day One. Some begin the count the day after Christmas. So there's a difference about when exactly is the 12th night.

We always used January 6th as Epiphany, with Twelfth Night celebrated on the evening of January 5th as it turned to the 6th. In New Orleans, Epiphany was also called "Three Kings' Day," and it was the first day of the Carnival season. Epiphany was the day the first King Cakes were served, and kept being served, until Mardi Gras.

So, in my former neck of the woods, Twelfth Night is celebrated the evening of January 5th, in preparation for marking the Epiphany. 

Most of my little celebrations are just me and the pets, as husband is usually resting or asleep. Back when most of my family and friends were alive, and my first husband was in graduate school, we had many friends, and Twelfth Night was loads of fun, with loads of company. With COVID now, many still blessed with friends and families aren't able to meet, either.

But don't let the lack of comrades stop your enjoyment of holidays or events! Enjoy them yourselves. Draw memories of good times to yourself, and enjoy.

For Twelfth Night, lay in a goodly supply of nuts to crack, especially walnuts, and make a batch of spiced cider or wassail. 

If you have the money, get some little pots of ivy to place around the den, or get any houseplants, really.

GET A NEW BROOM if you want to get extra luck for the year! Keep reading to find out where the new broom comes in.

NOTE: If you can't manage Twelfth Night, don't worry: CANDLEMAS is another very olde celebration. It has you taking down all decorations by February 2nd, and runs much the same way as Twelfth Night, but with even more plants to be placed around in anticipation of spring. So, if you are running late, just plan on Candlemas.

And, if you have no way to burn the items mentioned later on in this post, don't worry. Just remove them from inside your house and you're good! Out they can go, to the compost pile, the garden recycling bin, or the trash.

Back to the celebration:

All greenery and natural materials decorated with for Christmas need to be out of the house by midnight! Preferably, burned. But at least out! The swags and the wreaths and the popcorn strings and the buckets of fir branches and spruce and cedar and so forth, OUT. (I'm not talking the strung gourds or artificial materials or bird nests, just the trimmed greenery as is traditional).

(I now have to wonder here if maybe this was actually a fire-preventing measure dressed up as a fest.)

If you can, have a smorgasbord: Cheese, meats, crackers, boiled eggs, carrot sticks, dip, jams.

If you have a fireplace or stove, have a fire. Have it burning brightly once it's dark out. Twelfth Night is a LONG party - it goes to past midnight. If you have no fireplace, and you can SAFELY do so, have some candles lighted. If you are having a bonfire, get it ready. If you have no access to actual fire, play one of the fireplace videos!

During the evening, well before the stroke of midnight, feed the old greenery, twigs, cinnamon sticks, etc. from Christmas into the fireplace or bonfire, while snacking and talking. If you have a bonfire, I'd suggest throwing it all on at once, and get back inside and get warm. If you are lucky enough to have some teens at your fest, they will probably be "firebugs" and love to keep going outside and throwing things onto the bonfire.

If you are inside and have access to a pot-bellied stove or fireplace, it's fun to throw the things into the fire a bit at a time. My favorite thing to throw in is a pinecone. If I bought cinnamon cones before Christmas, I toss them in, too, since the scent's gone. Don't burn your cinnamon brooms, however; they are useful for the whole year.

Now, Twelfth Night is not for the faint of heart. It's a time for telling ghost tales and odd happenings. In olden days, so was Christmas Eve. Remember, in the Christmas song, “It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” the stanza “There'll be parties for hosting / Marshmallows for toasting / And caroling out in the snow. /There'll be scary ghost stories / And tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.” In olden times, frightening tales were popular features of get-togethers. So let your tongue run freely as to strange sights and old strange stories (I have a million such), and if the feeling moves you, tell some new tales that pop into your mind. The key is to tell tales of wondrous happenings without being gruesome or awful - kind of like the "Sleepy Hollow" story.

As midnight nears, continue to crack open the nuts and eat them, throwing the shells into the fire. Pop popcorn and salt it well for luck. Talk of the year ahead, and sing old songs. Remember old times and old friends and don't let the fire go out before midnight.

Now, about your new broom: Well, get it ready. Get your OLD broom ready, too. At midnight, you are going to THROW that old broom out your back door, bristles first. That broom is now your "yard broom" and its indoor days are over. It took last year's regrets and errors with it. Out they went. Take your NEW broom and draw it thrice across the front door threshold, drawing in luck.

I often stay up most of the night, just dozing on the couch. I will have a small bonfire tomorrow, if the wind isn't blowing.

I hope you enjoy Twelfth Night, wherever you be!
    Kind regards,
    The Merry Olde Dame, Holly


  1. We always made sure that our Christmas tree was taken down before twelth night as it was considered bad luck to keep it in place after that! Liz

  2. There are so many traditions to this time of year I was not aware of all of the 12th night. sounds like you will be having a party of one. Much luck to you in the new year

  3. I've been watching the 12 Days of Tudor Christmas, and 12th Night is the biggest day of all. I enjoyed how you treated yours with folklore and such. I absolutely love reading about these traditions you have kept alive.

  4. Interesting. I've heard of 3Kings, & Epiphany but not of 12th day or Candalmas. I should throw out my broom anyway, maybe this would be a good time do so. It's tidy up time.

  5. Well, at least we have a good supply of walnuts in the shells. They're so hard I can't crack them.
    Other than that January 6th is my oldest son's birthday so it's kind of special around here.

  6. If I thought it would help, I would rush out and get a new broom just so I could thrust out the old, along with "last years regrets and errors."


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