Risky Regencies

Twelfth Night


So, this week we’ve chatted about holiday food, music, gifts, and traditions. Hopefully we’ve put you in the holiday spirit, and set the mood for reading Mistletoe Kisses. 🙂 I love hearing about everyone’s holiday memories and plans, and I hope to incorporate some of what I’ve learned into my own celebrations this year. (While hopefully managing to avoid the mall!)

Historical holidays may have seemed a bit more low-key and drab compared to modern ones. No lights (twinkling or otherwise!), little tinsel, no big-ticket items left by Santa. But they certainly had their own fun ways of celebrating, and one of those great traditions was Twelfth Night (or What You Will, to quote Mr. Shakespeare. Love that play…)

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel a bit let-down when January 2 comes around and life is supposed to go back to workday normal. (My birthday is also in January, which kept the excitement–and cake-eating–going when I was a kid, but now that I’m getting older it just makes me depressed!). Our ancestors may have had the right idea when they celebrated twelve day of Christmas, culminating in the fun of Twelfth Night.

It all evolved from the Roman Saturnalia festival marking the onset of the winter solstice, the time when the sun, having reached its lowest, darkest point, begins to rise again toward longer, warmer days (yay!!). It was a time of feasting, parties, and public festivals that the Church co-opted in the fourth century, using the winter solstice as the “official” day of Christ’s birth (Dec. 25). By the time of the Renaissance, Christmas Day opened an annual twelve day festival of celebration. (The word “Yuletide” actually means the period between December 25 and January 6). Large bonfires were set in village centers, and on Christmas Eve each family set a ceremonial Yule log in their own hearths. January 6, Twelfth Night itself, was a final frenzy of eating, drinking, and dancing before facing the rest of the long winter.

One of the traditions of Twelfth Night was a cake–an ornate confection into which a trinket, like a bean, a coin, or a little metal Baby Jesus, would be hidden. The guest who found the item would become king or queen of Twelfth Night. (One funny facotid I read said that by the 18th century slips of paper were often substituted for the trinket, so that inebriated guests wouldn’t choke on Baby Jesus). Martha Washington had a recipe for this cake that used 40 eggs, 4 pounds of sugar, and 5 pounds of dried fruit. I think it’s on the Mt. Vernon website if you’d like to give it a go. It would be great with Cara’s Christmas pie. 🙂 This was often washed down with wassail (an ale-based drink with spices and honey) or a drink called “Lambs Wool” (cider or ale, sugar, spices, and roasted apples). No wonder they choked on the hidden bean.

Twelfth Night also involved masked dancers (‘Mummers’) who cavorted through the streets and visited houses uninvited to wreal havoc and beg for drinks and treats. Other common Yuletide activities were horse racing, fox hunting, cock fighting, card playing, games like blindman’s bluff and nine-pins, and entertainments like mock sword fights (or maybe real, after dipping into all that Lambs Wool), jesters, acrobats, plays and singing. Twelfth Night was also the time to extinguish the Yule log, saving some of the charred remains to use for kindling next year’s log.

This sounded like fun to me! I’d like to use the cake, the Yule log, and the plays in my own holiday, while skipping the cock fights and fox hunting. And the choking.

We’ve talked about so many aspects of the holidays this week, it seems there isn’t much left to say! But since today is the last chance to win a opy of Mistletoe Kisses, tell us what your very favorute–and very least favorite–aspects of the holiday are. (My faves–music and food. Least–holday traffic. Why do people get so crazy on the road at this time of year? I coudl do without Tickle Me Elmos, too). Are there any historical traditions you’d like to use in your celebrations?

Have a great Thanksgiving next week! We will have a treat for you here starting Friday, an interview with bset-selling author Eloisa James. And thanks for stopping by our RR “salon” to help us get the holidays started.

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Amanda McCabe
16 years ago

BTW, I do know how to spell (or at least run spell-check!). Blogger went crazy on me and posted before I finished. Sorry everyone!!!

Jennifer Y.
16 years ago

My favorite aspect of the holidays is seeing my family…of course that can sometimes lead to my least favorite aspect…added stress…LOL.

I also love the music and the lights. But hate the crowds and shopping.

Terry Z McDermid
16 years ago

This has been a lovely chat week and I’m excited about the book, even if I don’t win. I love holiday anthologies.

My favorite part of the holiday? Seeing family and sharing together. That’s our holiday focus and we’ve incorporated a simpler plan into our celebrating. . . a few bigger gifts, special foods, and travel to warmer weather for visiting. We liked a lot of the history of Christmas and leave our tree up for the 12 days of Christmas, which bothers a few friends of ours who take theirs down as soon as the last present is unwrapped. They also put theirs up by Thanksgiving, though, and we wait a little longer.

We make a Yule log cake that we give to friends and share with our family. (Even sold an almanac article about it years ago, with the info about how the Yule log tradition had to change due to lack of fireplaces for transplants to the U.S.).

Least favorite? The crowds at the stores when you just need a carton of milk!

ellie
16 years ago

Spending time with family abd friends which is so meaningful. Grocery store crowds and lineups are the worst now.

pearl
16 years ago

Being together with loved ones and just relaxing. Going out to shop when it is busy and stressful.

alissa
16 years ago

I enjoy the wonderful meals spent with friends and relatives. It is a lovely and beautiful to be together. I try to stay away from the overcrowded stores which turn me off.

Diane Perkins
16 years ago

I actually used the Twelfth Night cake in A Twelfth Night Tale.

I wonder if my family would appreciate it if I adopted a Regency England holiday season?

My vegetarian daughter might not like that Christmas pie!

Keira Soleore
16 years ago

My favorite part of the holidays is doing various fun activities together as a family. Usually, we are so busy that even weekends go by in a blur. But having time off means that we can relax and enjoy being together.

Least favorite part is the driving. People are so impatient, impolite, and always in a hurry. And this transfers over to their driving, too. Tempers are on short fuse and smiles in short supply. What an antithesis of the Christmas spirit.

robynl
16 years ago

This has been a great week of blogging and thanks to each one.
My favorite part is the renewing of faith in mankind, the merry mood most people are in and the family gathering.
My least favorite is the stress which leads to ‘ugliness’ in words, actions etc. People become nasty due to the stress and harsh words are spoken often.

Lois
16 years ago

My favorite part. . . the food. Yep, most definitely. LOL 🙂

And I’d love to do a Regency Christmas one of these years. It would proabably be closer to a Regency inspired one — a fair amount of modern and Regency things. Probably because we have a lot of stuff we always bring out every year, and just can’t stop, you know? LOL 🙂

And I try to keep the seasonal stuff up for a bit after Christmas because even before I knew that the 12th day of Christmas was celebrated as it is in the Regency novels, I knew of the song. LOL But the lousy thing about the media and stores and such is that we’ve made the Christmas season from the moment you stop eatting THanksgiving turkey to the moment you open the presents on Christmas the Christmas season. So even I can’t last until Jan 6 because I’m sick of it all by then. And it disappoints me. So I try to last until the New Year. 🙂

Lois

joelle
16 years ago

I love getting together with family and just catching up and relaxing over sumptuous meals. It is pleasureable and lasts for hours. I do not care to drive anywhere nor shop with the masses.

Megan Frampton
16 years ago

Amanda:

My favorite part of the holidays is seeing my son’s face on Christmas morning (that sounds so hokey, but it’s true).

My least favorite part is dealing with the stress of shopping, cleaning, and taking the tree down. Hate that last one.

Anonymous
Anonymous
16 years ago

In terms of taking the tree down:

I think it’s a comment on my general housekeeping skills that the christmas tree ornaments are all neatly packed in boxes. (Yay!) The boxes are not in the hall closet (Boo!), but are in the space next to the couch where last year’s tree stood. (OMG!)

This reminds me that last year’s tree was still standing in February. (Ack.)

I did manage to pack the ornaments, and I did (Finally) get the tree down. Unfortuantely, I have to put the boxes in the closet so that guests don’t trip over them for Thanksgiving.

I enjoy the Holidays, I just don’t plan for them well.

sharon
16 years ago

I enjoy having family stay with us so that we can all reconnect. The appealing meals that we all prepare together are a highlight of this season and we enjoy every minute of it. We stay home and catch up so that we will remember and savor this special time together. We avoid the shopping, crowds and driving which we find too much of a waste of time.

Elizabeth
16 years ago

Megan – I know exactly what you mean about your son’s face on Christmas morning. I have a treasured memory of a little boy aged three who had just found the pillow slip full of presents at the end of his bed and came in to plonk himself between us at about 6:30 on Christmas morning and showed us everything.
“And Father Christmas brought ALL this, Mummy! He’s a GOOD man!”
DH disappeared under the bedclothes spluttering.

Elizabeth

Elena Greene
16 years ago

Yes, my favorite parts are music and food (cookies!) too. Also driving around with my kids and checking out all the Christmas lights.

Juliet
16 years ago

I love a lot of things of the holidays, the music, the food, the lights, the beautiful decorations and christmas spirit, the happy times with family and friends, the opening of presents in family, christmas books and christmas plays, etc.

My least favorite part are also the crowds and long lines as well as the traffic. And that it has to end. I love the season and always feel a little sad when is over.

Anonymous
Anonymous
16 years ago

Happy Thanksgiving!

JaneFan
16 years ago

My favourite aspect of the season is the sense of communion with others – the feeling of excitement in the air when so many people in my town and around the world are preparing for the same big event – Christmas!

The worst part is the stress, obligations and guilt have become attached to the act of gift-giving (especially within the family).

Anonymous
Anonymous
16 years ago

As a practicing neo-pagan I love to incorporate as much of the fun old stuff as possible.

Sad to say I lack a fireplace for a Yule log. Instead, I use a large, log-shaped, cranberry scented candle with three wicks. It’s lovely, and this will be the third year it’s lasted!

I do have a piece of the big Yule log from last year’s celebration. Each member of the group I circle with took a piece home. We’re supposed to gather to light this year’s Yule fire with the bits, but as some folks are abandoning the rest of us for Hawaii this year, I may end up observing that particular tradition alone in the backyard with my Weber, and a glass of egg nog, LOL.

Happy Turkey Day and a Merry Season to all!
Jane G.

Diane Perkins
16 years ago

Keira!
Glad you liked the anthology.
The hero on the cover could have been Zach but Elizabeth was not blonde. Still, I love the cover. It is beautiful and very romantic!

Todd
16 years ago

Twelfth Night sounds like a blast. I do enjoy big family gatherings. And the Lamb’s Wool sounds nifty, too.

For me personally, though, the most important part is always the burning of the Yule log. Otherwise the sun will not return, and we will all be plunged into Eternal Darkness! Good thing I haven’t forgotten to do it so far…

Todd-who-needs-to-make-a-note-to-self

Diane Perkins
16 years ago

For me personally, though, the most important part is always the burning of the Yule log. Otherwise the sun will not return, and we will all be plunged into Eternal Darkness! Good thing I haven’t forgotten to do it so far…
Todd-who-needs-to-make-a-note-to-self

Please take care of this for us all, Todd. I’m certainly not lighting a Yule log so we must depend on you to keep us from being plunged into Eternal Darkness!

Todd
16 years ago

I’m thinking about experimenting with a Burning Yule Log Screensaver. Saves trees.

Todd-who-hopes-we-aren’t-plunged-into-virtual-eternal-darkness

Diane Perkins
16 years ago

I’m thinking about experimenting with a Burning Yule Log Screensaver. Saves trees.

Oh, great. I guess we’ll all have to make do with virtual light….wonder if there is a sun-shining screensaver?

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