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Twelfth Night

Christmas

Twelfth Night

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Twelfth Night
Observed by Christians
Type Christian
Date 5 January/6 January
Observances Christmas decorations taken down
Related to Epiphany

Twelfth Night is a holiday in some branches of Christianity marking the coming of the Epiphany, or Twelfth Day, and is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "the evening of the 5 January, preceding Twelfth Day, the eve of the Epiphany".

In some traditions it is taken to mean the evening of the Twelfth Day itself, the 6 January. This apparent difference has arisen probably due to the old custom of treating sunset as the beginning of the following day. Therefore Twelfth Night would have been considered as occurring on the twelfth day, though in present day custom it is the previous day.

The celebration of Epiphany, the adoration of the Magi, is marked in some cultures by the exchange of gifts, and Twelfth Night, as the eve of Epiphany, takes on a similar significance to Christmas Eve.

Contents

Origins and history

In Tudor England, the Twelfth Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve--which some now celebrate as Halloween. A King or Lord of Misrule would be appointed to run the Christmas festivities, and the Twelfth Night was the end of his period of rule. The common theme was that the normal order of things was reversed. This Lord of Misrule tradition can be traced back to pre-Christian European festivals such as the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia.

Traditions

Twelfth Night is when all Christmas Decorations should be removed so as not to bring bad luck upon the home. If decorations are not removed on Twelfth Night, they should stay up all year.

In some countries, the Twelfth Night marks the start of the Carnival season, which lasts through Mardi Gras. In some places such as New Orleans, Louisiana, the night of January 6 with the first Carnival celebrations is called Twelfth Night. In some places, Twelfth Night celebrations include food traditions such as the king cake or tortell.

Influence on Literature

Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night, or What You Will was written to be performed as a Twelfth Night entertainment and first performed at Middle Temple Hall, London during the Twelfth Night celebrations of 1602 at the culmination of the celebrations, which was then at Candlemas, February 2. The play has many elements that are reversed in the tradition of Twelfth Night, such as a woman Viola dressing as a man, and a servant Malvolio imagining that he can become a nobleman.

Modern Esotericism

According to esoteric and astrological interpretations of Christmas, the "Twelve Holy Days" start on December 26, the day following Christmas "holy day", and end on January 6; therefore the night of January 6 is regarded as the Twelfth Night, and is held to have been the time when the "Rite of Baptism" was performed in early Christianity [1], and of course the date of Epiphany itself.

See also

References

  1.   Heline, Corinne. New Age Bible Interpretation, Vol. VII Mystery of the Christos:The Twelve Holy Days. ISBN 0-933963-07-6 ; period starting December 26th (after Christmas day) to January 6th (Twelfth Night).

External links


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Christmas Guide, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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