It’s Twelfth Night!  Tonight!

Twelfth Night is a festival that takes place on the last night of the Twelve Days of Christmas and, for western Christianity, marks the coming of the Epiphany tomorrow – January 6th.

What is Twelfth Night all about? To borrow from ‘The Night before Christmas’ … ““’Twas the night before Epiphany and all through the house”  … celebrations, partying, merriment are happening on Twelfth Night!  

A Twelfth Night cake with a bean or coin inside, (aka King’s Cake in the UK and in the Netherlands; Martha Washington’s Great Cake in the U.S.) is ceremoniously presented and eaten. There’s a crowning of royalty; lots of music, plays/puppets/theatre and singing; and wassail, a toast of spiced ale or cider (or hot apple cider) is offered for good health. In some homes, it’s an excuse for everyone to dress-up: a masquerade.  In other words, Twelfth Night is an opportunity to feast, and play, be silly, eat and have fun! And yes, it’s possible in some way, even in a pandemic. 🙂

Around 1601, William Shakespeare wrote his ‘Twelfth Night play, a comedy, as entertainment for the close of the Season of Christmas and set the stage for the Twelfth Night feast with Orlando’s words: “If music be the food of love, play on; give me excess of it.”  In 1849, Queen Victoria marked Twelfth Night with an abundance of music, theatre performances and dance for her court which the populace began to imitate.

Many well-known painters depicted the frivolity of Twelfth Night. Peter Brueghel the Younger painted “The King Drinks” showing the King drinking to himself, a costume procession, general feasting and merry making. Jan Steen, (known as the most prolific of Twelfth Night artists – six on that theme!), focused on the role of music, symbolism of the Epiphany star and the waffles that are served royalty on Twelfth Night, and even included eggshells littered on the floor in one of his paintings. Even poets (like Robert Herrick’s 1660 “Twelfth Night: Or, King and Queen”):  “NOW, now the mirth comes” got into the celebration of the festival.

Let’s re-discover the Twelfth Night, bring some celebration and festive merrymaking into our lives, and welcome the light of the Epiphany when dawn breaks in the morning … in spite of the political tension in many countries and the pandemic around the world. Or maybe, because of it all.

And if physical celebrations cannot happen because of the pandemic, may this Twelfth Day end with a festive spirit … a spirit filled with joy and hope … with ‘you’!

Soulistry offers reflections throughout the calendar year … if you’re looking for a particular subject or theme (e.g. hope, grief, etc.), type the word into the Search bar of or visit the Soulistry blog ( I look forward to sharing future Soulistry reflections with you. Soulistry reflections can be shared (accreditation appreciated) and comments welcomed. Happy Twelfth Night!

© June Maffin