On the twelfth day of Christmas

So the decorations are down and the cards are ready to be recycled. It’s a flat sort of day. Especially since the next day is a Monday this year, and Real Life starts up in earnest for everyone.

Until the mid-nineteenth century, though, Twelfth Day in Britain was a celebration (and also the Feast of the Epiphany). In those days, the ones I mostly write about, Christmas went on after December 25th, instead of peaking on the day. And our Christmas cake developed out of the old Twelfth Cake, with its bean and other tokens and its turning upside down of the usual rules.

In Ireland, the rules were kicked over too. January 6th was known as Little Christmas (Nollaig Bheag), or Women’s Christmas (Nollaig na mBan). On this day, the men took over all the housework and the women got a well-earned rest, or the chance to enjoy themselves with sisters, daughters or friends.

I’m not planning any misrule today, but I’m going to celebrate Twelfth Day with a few photos of my first Christmas. So here we are, me and my parents…

Family photo of mother, father and baby

Slightly bored baby, handsome but serious parents…

Mother, father and baby

Perking up a bit now Mum’s stroking me

Mother, father and baby

That’s better!

My mother used to have a party on January 6th, so today’s poignant for me, but with happy memories.

Here’s a very rich recipe for Twelfth Cake, if you’re into baking. Have you got any Twelfth Day/Night traditions?



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014

About rebelhand

A Rebel Hand is: about Nicholas Delaney, Irish rebel of 1798, transported as a convict to New South Wales, roadbuilder, innkeeper and farmer. My great-great-great grandfather. Other ancestors transported to Australia, like Sarah Marshall, John Simpson and James Thomas Richards, pop up as well. This blog's also about the historical background to their lives, in England, Ireland, and Australia. My respectable Welsh ancestors sometimes get a look in.
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12 Responses to On the twelfth day of Christmas

  1. Alona Tester says:

    Beautiful photos Frances 😉


  2. Catherine says:

    Fascinating info Frances. Embarrassed to admit I never quite knew what that 12 day of Christmas Song as all about … oops. Then I got distracted off looking at the recipes and following up links and MORE recipes 🙂 Love the photos and must say you parents are such a handsome looking pair but your mum is exceptionally beautiful.


    • rebelhand says:

      Thank you, Catherine. I get that wandering off thing, too – oh, those tempting links. Like the Elephant’s Child, I suffer from insatable curiosity.


      • Catherine says:

        My darling mum constantly shook her finger at me and warned… “Curiosity killed the cat, Catherine!” which should have been a worry cos my younger bro liked to call me Katz, or sometimes Cacky, when he was feeling grumpy … ha ha ha!!!


      • rebelhand says:

        Haha! Did you ever hear the other bit of that saying? ‘Satisfaction brought it back’?


  3. cassmob says:

    Gorgeous photos of you and your proud parents (I think your Mum is looking a bit like a young QEII here). We didn’t have any traditions around Epiphany other than going to church….again.


  4. BigSister says:

    Lovely post, and poignant photos. What a handsome trio!


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