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Museum News

Twelfth Night & Epiphany

SSP 0143

Twelfth Night, also known as Epiphany Eve, falls on the 5th January and is the end of the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas. Decorations were taken down, and it was commonly believed that misfortune would befall those that left their decorations up beyond that night. Although, during the Elizabethan era people often left greenery up until Candlemas, 40 days after Christmas.

The 6th January was known as Epiphany, which historically, held as much importance as Christmas Day. Also known as The Feast of the Three Kings, it was a time for celebration, marked with feasting and entertainment. In Tudor times it was celebrated in style at the royal court with a great banquet, masques and lots of merriment.

SSP 0139Rural communities would also celebrate with feasts and share Twelfth Night Cake. Inside was hidden a dried pea or bean, and the person who found this in their slice of cake would become the Lord or King of the feast, regardless of whether they were servants or not! Games were also played, and carols were sung, before people prepared to return to normal life after Christmas.

Epiphany is believed to be the day that the three kings, guided by the star, finally arrived in Bethlehem and presented their gifts to the baby Jesus. Gold (to symbolise his royal birth), frankincense (to represent his divine birth) and myrrh (to recognise his mortality). The name ‘Epiphany’ comes from the Greek word meaning ‘to reveal’, as baby Jesus was revealed to the world on this day.