Tim Paul • Link
Surprisingly Sam calls the 7th January Twelfth Day. We would apply the title to the 6th - the Feast of the Epiphany.
Dickens, in a Christmas Carol, mentions the occasion being celebrated with a 'Twelfth Cake', as does Sam,but what did Pepys' games involve? In the 21st century the cake has been moved into December as a Christmas Cake.
Grahamt • Link
See 6th of January 1659/60 annotations:
There is a long discussion about 12th night and cakes, especially in continental Europe.
I was in Switzerland on 12th night this year, and there was no sign of 12th night celebrations, so perhaps it is a catholic thing, and has almost disappeared in protestant communities.
dirk • Link
12th night celebrations
In the central part of the Low Countries (now in Belgium) it was traditional to celebrate this on the first monday after January 6th. This day was known as 'Lost Monday' and closed a period of feasting and merriment. According to 16th century descriptions this was very much like 'Mardi Gras', involving mainly lots of drinking and 'doing' as many pubs as possible 'with the guys'. Traditionally the corporations offered a free meal to their members on that day (sausage on a 'plate' of hard bread).
Hannabella Powell • Link
If you read the diary, Pepys explains that they are celebrating on the 7th because in 1661, the 6th fell on a Sunday. The traditional 12th Night celebrations were a time for games, pranks and role playing featuring the Twelfth cake (like our fruit cake with a bean, pea and sometimes a clove baked into it. The cake is baked months in advance and soaked all the preceeding year with sack, rum or brandy). The reveler whose slice has the bean is to be treated like a king all night long, his every command to be obeyed. The pea indicates the lady who shall be the Queen, and if you read that same entry it appears that the pea had been divided in two when the cake was sliced and so that year there were 2 "Queens" presiding over the festivities. The clove, if used, indicated the Knave to keep the party jolly. At midnight or at the end of the party, the King's reign ended and he agreed to pay for next year's party and the Queen would bake the cake. During Pepys' time, the custom began to become popular of writing King, Queen, Knave on slips of paper with additional blanks containing wishes for the New Year. These were put into a hat and drawn out as they took their piece of cake. Pepys refers to this elsewhere.
In 18th Century Virginia there are several diaries describing these customs and in England from the 1790's sheets of Characters are printed each year to be cut and drawn from the hat with each guest having to assume that personna.
The French in Louisiana, when celebrating the Mardi Gras, bake "Babycakes" with a small doll in them for good luck. My Canadian Grandmother had a box of "charms" that she baked into our birthday cakes. Most of you have seen them in your Monopoly sets. Monopoly's inventor designed and tested the game in his kitchen and used what was handy for tokens---the same cake charms that where popularly sold in the 1920's.
All these practices have deep roots going back to ancient fertility celebrations.
Marcia Finger--Williamsburg, Virginia
Bushman • Link
When I was a boy in England the Christmas cake was baked some time ahead and soaked in Brandy. Inside my Mother inserted silver threepenny bits and you were favored to get one with your piece of cake.
This practice fell out of favor with my sisters when they were married as the metal for threepenny bits was changed from silver to a brass alloy that would discolour in the cake.
Pedro • Link
Twelfth night on board ship.
The Rev. Henry Teonge, chaplain of one of Charles's ships-of-war, describes Twelfth-Night on board:
'Wee had a great kake made, in which was put a beane for the king, a pease for the queen, a cloave for the knave, &c. The kake was cut into several pieces in the great cabin, and all put into a napkin, out of which every one took his piece as out of a lottery; then each piece is broaken to see what was in it, which caused much laughter, and more to see us tumble one over the other in the cabin, by reason of the ruff weather.'
The celebrated Lord Peterborough, then a youth, was one of the party on board this ship, as Lord Mordaunt.
Mr. Pepys is to be thanked for the information provided here. I came upon your site while preparing for my own 12th Night Revel to be held 1/6/07. We shall have a bean, a pea and NOW a clove in the cake I am ordering, thanks to your information. I am wondering what's to prevent a man from getting the pea but then who cares! A Morris Dance side, the Capering Roisters, will come to dance as we wassail a newly planted grove of apple trees. I must go now to order my "kake".
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.