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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Twelfth Night

January 5th is the Twelfth and Final night of Christmas, as well as one of Shakespeare's best known works.

Twelfth Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve and The Lord of Misrule symbolizes the world turning upside down. On this day the King (or in this case, Queen) and all those who were upper-class would become the peasants and vice versa. At the beginning of the Twelfth Night festival, a cake that contained a bean was eaten. The person who found the bean would rule the feast. Midnight signaled the end of his rule and the world would return to normal. The common theme was that the normal order of things was reversed. s.

Food and drink were the center of the celebrations with a punch called wassail consumed especially on Twelfth Night. Special pastries, such as the tortell and king cake were baked on Twelfth Night, and eaten the following day for the Feast of the Epiphany celebrations. In English and French custom, the Twelfth-cake contained the bean and pea, so that those who received the slices containing them should be designated king and queen of the night's festivities.

Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night, or What You Will was written to be performed as a Twelfth Night entertainment. The earliest known performance took place at Middle Temple Hall, one of the Inns of Court , on Candlemass night, 2 February 1602. The play has many elements that are reversed, in the tradition of Twelfth Night, such as a woman Viola dressing as a man, and a servant Malvolio imagining that he can become a nobleman.

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