And that's Billy as the Bean King. See below.
There's a bit of confusion between Twelfth Night and Twelfth Day, but they are separate though over time they're often used interchangeable. So the latter part of January 5th is Twelfth Night, and January 6th is the Twelfth Day. January is also the feast of the Epiphany, marked as the day when the three magi or kings finally found the child they'd been seeking by following the star.
So again we have a conflict between religious celebrations and civil ones, even pagan ones, but in this case there doesn't seem to have been much contest. Civil and pagan won!
Twelfth Night, the 5th, is the end of the twelve days of Christmas, or Christmastide, and thus the true beginning of the new year.
Traditions associated with Twelfth Night and Twelfth Day varied from place to place, but often involved the choosing of kings or queens for festivities, and agricultural rituals connected, often associated with fire and noise. As Susan wrote about Plough Monday, people were heading into the toughest part of the year when fresh food would be in short supply. At the same time, they would be grateful for the stores they had and hoping for as good or better in the next year's harvest.
Thus we have fires lit in the fields, and loud noises, including gunfire, in orchards. These were connected with driving out demons or anything that might harm the crop. The gunfire in the orchard was often framed as a salute to the best and oldest apple tree.
The Twelfth Night or Twelfth Day cake was baked with a bean in it. There's a recipe for one style of Twelfth Day cake here. Whoever got the piece with the bean became the king or queen for the celebration, and everyone had to do homage — and also obey. In the form of the Lord of Misrule, this character could command outlandish things! In courts from the middle ages up to the Restoration, the bean king or queen would take the monarch's place, and even wear their robes and jewels.
I have a Victorian recipe for a "Twelfth Cake" which is more like a fruit cake — with 4 lbs of currants, 18 eggs and a large quantity of brandy!
There was also a tradition of mumming and wassailing at this time. People would sometimes dress up as characters. Some were old traditions, like Saint George. But others would be taken from current politics. In the early 19th century Nelson was a popular one. The picture is a cartoon from 1850 based on this idea. It's from this site.
In Italian tradition, La Befana brings presents to children on the 6th. Is this still the tradition there? This article seems to say so. This picture is from that site.
So, how could we incorporate Twelfth Day celebrations into our modern lives? Susan suggested we could have a blessing of the computers in lieu of ploughs. As we enter winter, which still presents some hardship for many of us, what productive thing might we want to salute with noises so it will continue to produce in 2009? Our car, perhaps, so it will do well in winter. Shut up, you who live in balmy areas! Your air conditioning, perhaps? *G*
For the writers, perhaps just that mystical talent that creates something out of nothing. Ring bells, ring bells, to thank it and bless it for the coming year!
What evils might we want to scare away with fire? Alas, in tough times some of us might find these easy to come up with. If you can do it safely, what about writing some concerns on paper and burning them? I always find it satisfying to see the bits of black blow away up a chimney, but if you don't have a fireplace, try to bury them in the ground. If that's not possible, simply go with the modern flow — literally — and flush the paper or its charred remains down the toilet, carrying your worries with it. 🙂
If you were the Bean King or Queen for the day, what would you command in the world of books and reading? What would you salute so you'd have more of it in the coming year? And what demons would you try to drive out with fire as we head into the winter of 2009?