The Twelfth Night

The holiday that time forgot

I’m an Advent and Twelve Days of Christmas absolutist. I’ve written on this before (see link below), but keep needing a quick link for the women’s night on the Twelfth Night, an early January tradition I am trying to import from Ireland.

I’ve done it for five years now. It has grown and is a favorite party of many of my girlfriends. They ask about it in August. This year it will double as an after party for one of my girlfriend’s chamber orchestra performances at a local pub. (Yep. Cool friend. Cool group, the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra. Cool pub.)

The Twelfth Night is the end of Christmas. (For the non-Christians and non-liturgical calendar Christians, the Twelve Days of Christmas is not just a funny carol about what must have been mess, noise, and general chaos by day twelve.) The Twelfth Night used to have its own rich traditions. In addition to being the day decorations had to come down — otherwise they had to be left up all year to avoid bad luck — the day was a bit like childhood Opposite Day, only with more mischief. Think of the loony antics of Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night.

From King Bean and Queen Pea to Little Christmas, there are many Twelfth Night traditions one could revive, but the Irish tradition of Little Christmas tradition caught my attention back when we lived in London. For Little Christmas, women left the menfolk at home to do the housework and childcare for the day. They nibbled on little sandwiches of leftovers, enjoyed each other’s company, and celebrated the end of the busy Christmas season. In the modern era, it has turned into a women’s night out at the pub.

That’s what I do here in Houston, a pub night, and I highly recommend it. The post photo is the event two years ago.

A warning though, determining the Twelfth Night of Christmas isn’t as easy as counting. Some Christian traditions count Christmas Day as day one, while others count the 26th as day one. And in many old calendars, a day began at sundown the night before. So if you plan any Twelfth Night festivities, you will need to specify the 5th or 6th of January to venture out for a half pint at a local pub and raise a glass to the arrival of the Three Wise Men. (Depending on the calendar math used, the 12th night starts Epiphany, which is when the three kings arrived to meet Christ.)

(A random gripe: This is the second year I will have to toast them without Strongbow. The perfect apple cider is distributed by Heineken US, who have apparently decided that the way to expand the US cider marker is not only to add new sweet ciders — Jolly Ranchers in a bottle according to the unimpressed Facebook group — but also to discontinue importing the dry cider. My husband has taken to brewing dry cider for me. He is an excellent husband who earns his nickname, Marty Stewart.)

Teacher of life admin and curator of commentary. Occasional writer.

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