How to Throw a Twelfth Night Party
December 22, 2015
Celebrate the last night of the Christmas season with these time-honored traditions
How to Throw a Twelfth Night Party
Twelfth Night parties have been celebrated around the world on January 5 or 6 — depending on how you're counting — for many centuries. Called the Feast of the Epiphany on the liturgical calendar, it marks the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and is said to be the day when the Three Wise Men (or Three Kings) brought Jesus their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh in the stable in Bethlehem.
While the tradition of throwing a party to commemorate the holiday isn’t as popular in America as in some other countries, it is widely celebrated in France, Spain, and the United Kingdom, among other places.
Since this is the night that celebrates the giving of gifts to Jesus, it only makes sense that you receive gifts on this day as well. Leave your guests gold party favors or have everyone bring a Secret Santa gift in gold wrapping paper so everyone receives a gold gift, like the one King Melchior brought to Jesus, according to the Gospel of St. Matthew.
To add some sparkle to your existing Christmas decorations, throw some gold streamers on the tree and gold trinkets around the house before everyone takes the decorations down, again to represent the gold Melchior gave to Jesus. Make sure your house still sports red and green, the iconic colors of Christmas, with tons of holly and Christmas berries.
Make 12 healthy appetizers instead of serving a big Christmas dinner for your Twelfth Night party. Everyone will be tired of eating rich, heavy foods by early January, so these appetizers should be welcomed at your party. Replace hot dog weenies with asparagus wrapped in bacon, for example, to give everyone delicious, healthy party treats.
Though, in America, king’s cake is mostly associated with Mardi Gras, it is actually one of the best-known icons of Twelfth Night. France, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Bulgaria are some of the countries where people still celebrate this tradition. Similar to a fruitcake, king’s cake is a fruit or bread cake shaped into a ring. It commonly has something baked inside, like a plastic baby Jesus, and whoever gets this piece is the “king” for the night and is expected to bake the cake the following year.
Having the right music can make or break any party. Make sure you play the “12 Days of Christmas," as well as other Christmas music to signify the end of the season! You can even give out little drummers-drumming ornaments as party favors to mark the last day of Christmas. Make sure holiday classics, like “Silent Night” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” are on the rotation!
Taking down the Tree
A common practice on the Twelfth Night of Christmas is taking down all of the Christmas decorations, including the tree. Make a party of this and have everyone help take down the tree and Christmas décor. It’s a fun activity that will keep everyone busy. Plus, your guests will be cleaning up your house at the same time!
Twelve Days of Shots
For a more modern twist, add in a Twelve Days of shots at your party. Everything from apple cider to hot chocolate should be present to celebrate making it through the stressful holiday season! Have your guests pick their cocktails from a tray of the 12 options for a fun Twelfth Night drink activity.
Wassailing is a common practice still done in the U.K. on the final night of Christmas. The wassail drink typically consisted of cider or ale, spices, and honey. On the Twelfth Night, wassailers would go around from one house to another singing songs and spreading good wishes. Whip up a batch of this cocktail and serve it at your party! Hire carolers to come as wassailers to practice this old English tradition.
The yule log, or bûche de Noël, is a Christmas classic that should be present at your Twelfth Night party. As one of the most traditional Christmas desserts, the yule log cake represents the actual wooden log that is supposed to be ignited on the first day of Christmas and last until the Twelfth Day.