Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Twelfth Night Celebrations!

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod, the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him."
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
~Matthew 2: 1-2, 11
In the vein of starting our own family traditions, I've decided to embrace Twelfth Night with some of our own family revelry.  Twelfth Night marks the end of Christmas (the twelfth day of Christmas!) and marks the coming of Epiphany (when the wise men visited Christ).  Though my husband is no longer a practicing Catholic, it sounds like a lovely thing to incorporate into our own Christmas celebration. 

I learned that "yuletide" actually refers to the 12 days between December 25th and January 6th and Twelfth Night was a final frenzy of feasting, drinking and merry-making before the community returned to its daily working grind.  Wouldn't it be nice if we still observed this tradition?  Well, Mike has already gone back to work, but to honor the feasting aspect of this day we invited a few friends over for a quick, yet festive, dessert!

On the menu?  Traditionally, you eat Twelfth Night Cake (sometimes called King's Cake) and a drink called Lamb's Wool or Wassail. There were lots of recipes for Twelfth Night Cake, but I decided to try out the one published by the New York Times with raisins and nuts - really rich and delicious. You are supposed to incorporate three beans, coins or baby jesus figurines into the batter and whoever gets a slice with one of those inside gets to be one of the three kings and ruler of the feast. Sometimes there is an exchange of gifts to commemorate the gifts the magi brought.

Mayumi helped with cracking the eggs.

Maya added the bean to the batter (we only used one bean since we were so few in number).

Wassail is a drink of "good wishes and holiday cheer, has been associated with Twelfth Night since the 1400s. The ale-based drink seasoned with spices and honey was served in huge bowls, often made of silver or pewter. It was passed among family members and friends with the greeting 'Wassail.' The name comes from the old English term 'Waes hael,' meaning 'be well'."  (This is from an excellent article about the history of Twelfth Night celebrations here.)  Our recipe was a hit and I humbly share it with you:

Holiday Wassail
1/2 gallon apple cider
2 cups Dole orange babana pineapple 100% juice
2 bags sugar plum spice tea
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground allspice
2 sticks cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together and let it simmer very slowly for 4 to 6 hours, adding water if necessary to prevent thickening.  Remove cinnamon sticks and tea bags before ladeling out to serve.
As a theater lover it would be remiss of me not to mention dear Willie and his spectacular play Twelfth Night.  Perhaps tonight calls for a screening, or at least a brief reading.
 If music be the food of love, play on;

Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour!
~Twelfth Night, 1. 1

And don't forget to take down all your Christmas decorations tonight - it's bad luck to keep them up past Twelfth Night. 
Happy revelry and feasting to you!


MamaD said...

Wow - that egg looks gigantic in Maya's hand. So does the bean - what kind of bean did you use? And what brand of sugar plan spice tea did you use and where did you get it from? I'm not sure I've ever seen that flavor in my grocery store but maybe because I was never looking for it. But I love the idea of starting this as a new tradition. And I had no idea that it was bad luck to keep your Christmas decorations up past Twelfth Night - what an interesting post!

Kendra said...

Great post and I love Maya's little hands in the photos!