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Twelfth Night (holiday)

From Academic Kids

Twelfth Night is a holiday January 6 marked by some branches of Christianity, marking the 12th and final night of the Christmas season, namely the night of twelfth day or January 6, the Epiphany celebration to commemorate the adoration of the Magi. (Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough, 1922: "The last of the mystic twelve days is Epiphany or Twelfth Night ...")


In Tudor England, the Twelfth Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve--which some now celebrate as Halloween. A King or Lord of Misrule would be appointed to run the Christmas festivities, and the Twelfth Night was the end of his period of rule. The common theme was that the normal order of things was reversed. This Lord of Misrule tradition can be traced back to pre-Christian European festivals such as the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia.

After Twelfth Night the Carnival season starts, which lasts through Mardi Gras. In some places such as New Orleans, Louisiana, the night of January 6 with the first Carnival celebrations is called Twelfth Night.

In some places, Twelfth Night celebrations include food traditions such as the king cake or tortell.

Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night, or What You Will was written to be performed as a Twelfth Night entertainment and first performed at Middle Temple Hall, London during the Twelfth Night celebrations of 1602 at the culmination of the celebrations, which was then at Candlemas, February 2.

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