Twelfth Night and Epiphany Jeopardy!

IMG_8760On this day in January 2013, Jeremy wrote about the ancient tradition of Twelfth Night, the night before the Feast of the Epiphany. I thought I knew everything there is to know about the Epiphany—but I was wrong—so wrong.

For his religious education family group on Sunday, my brother made a Jeopardy! game about all things related to the Epiphany. We took his test—and failed miserably.

The first problem was coming up with the names of the three kings. I defaulted to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, knowing I was very wrong, but there were three names, and they are figures in the Bible. I couldn’t conjure up Melchior, Casper (or Gaspar) and Balthazar. The pressure of the timed moment was just too great—even with the hint that one of them sounded like a “friendly ghost.”  This CNN iReport describes the Lithuanian celebration of the three kings.  (Another future post, for certain.)

I completely failed on the three gifts. I could name them, sure. But I forgot the spiritual purpose of each one, especially myrrh. Later, I spent some time reading about each of the gifts and how they relate to the recognition of the divinity of the baby Jesus.

My brother asked about the Massacre of the Innocents and the names of ancient kings. The only answer I was sure of was “Egypt” (where Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled).

Although, Roger and I earned an imaginary $1800, it was a struggle. I will be re-visiting some of the major points of the Nativity story this year. Be prepared for Epiphany Jeopardy! rematch.

“The Writer’s Almanac” today featured a description of Twelfth Night in the early American Colonial period.

This month marks the third year of The Yule Log 365, and I feel like I have so much to learn.


Podcast #49- 350 Days to Go!

Pod 49

Podcast #49–  Click here to listen to this week’s podcast- Here Comes Year #2!

Natalie and I kick off our podcasts counting down to Christmas 2013!  With Epiphany over, today truly can begin the focus on just Christmas 2013.  Today we share our plans for the Yule Log in this new year.  We also introduce our new structure for our podcasts.  Each time we hope to share something in three categories: KNOW, DO, and PLAN. This week we get to KNOW about Twelfth night and the Julian calendar Christmas.  We take time to DO proper storage and packing for Christmas 2012 and buy those needed items for 2013.  We close with a PLAN to add some events for the next year, to make careful notes for our plans, and to save for the holiday budget.  Thanks for joining us for Year #2!!


On the 12th Day of Christmas…

12th nightOn the 12th Day of Christmas, Christmas is over. Finished. Done. Complete. Today is Twelfth Night, the final day of the twelve days of Christmas. This is the night before epiphany and signals the end of the season. The earliest origins of Twelfth Night can be found in ancient Rome. It was a festival and celebration to end the winter solstice festivals and begin the long stretch of winter. The more modern practices go back to Medieval England. Twelfth Night was a night of celebration to mark the end fo the season. There was much music and dancing and a large feast. The feast would have a king and queen crowned to preside over the festivities. A plum cake was served with a bean and a pea baked into it. The man who found the bean was named the king and the woman who found the pea was named the queen. If a woman found the bean she got to be queen and named her own king. These festivals were lots of fun- nights of pranks, costumes, and role reversals. A kind of free-for-all with no rules and wild abandon. In some towns large groups with blackened faces would roam the streets causing a loud uproar to chase away and bad spirits. These traditions carried over to the new world and colonial America saw similar festivals and feasts, and many formal balls. These large Twelfth Night balls were particularly popular in the south. Even President Washington and his wife Martha hosted huge annual parties. This might also be because January 5th was their wedding anniversary! By the mid-1800s the emphasis on Twelfth Night had dwindled and large Christmas Day celebrations had become the new trend.

WassailSome other holiday tradition are also connected to Twelfth Night. Wassail was connected with the night as part of the festivities to place a good blessing on the orchards. A mix of cider and ale was made and then taken to the orchard groves. Singing and merriment would move to the trees and the mixture was poured on the roots to ensure a good crop of apples the following fall. The fire of the yule log would be extinguished on Twelfth Night. This log was lit and kept burning through the whole season and extinguished on this night. The remains would be kept to be used to light the next log the following year. Twelfth night is not just an ending but a beginning too. It signals the start of the carnival season the will continue through Mardi Gras and end on Ash Wednesday. So much more on the 12th day of Christmas than those drummers drumming!