Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Twelfth Night

Back in the old days, Twelfth Night reveling included having a King and/or Queen for the festivites - chosen, of course, by baking a coin or bean or small image of Jesus in the cake. The person whose portion included the prize became royalty for the occasion.

I've read that this custom has its origins in pagan practices but, really, it is so fitting for the Epiphany - manifestation - of Our Lord. The Kingdom that Christ brings is, in fact, one of reversals. The valleys are exalted and the mountains and hills made low:

Twelfth Night: Or King and Queen

Now, now the mirth comes
With the cake full of plums,
Where bean's the king of the sport here;
Beside we must know,
The pea also
Must revel, as queen, in the court here.

Begin then to choose,
This night as ye use,
Who shall for the present delight here,
Be a king by the lot,
And who shall not
Be Twelfth-day queen for the night here.

Which known, let us make
Joy-sops with the cake;
And let not a man then be seen here,
Who unurg'd will not drink
To the base from the brink
A health to the king and queen here.

Next crown a bowl full
With gentle lamb's wool:
Add sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And thus ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger.

Give then to the king
And queen wassailing:
And though with ale ye be whet here,
Yet part from hence
As free from offence
As when ye innocent met here.

-- Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

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