Wednesday 6 January 1668/69

(Twelfth day). Up, and to look after things against dinner to-day for my guests, and then to the Office to write down my journall for five or six days backward, and so home to look after dinner, it being now almost noon. At noon comes Mrs. Turner and Dyke, and Mrs. Dickenson, and then comes The. and Betty Turner, the latter of which is a very pretty girl; and then Creed and his wife, whom I sent for, by my coach. These were my guests, and Mrs. Turner’s friend, whom I saw the other day, Mr. Wicken, and very merry we were at dinner, and so all the afternoon, talking, and looking up and down my house; and in the evening I did bring out my cake — a noble cake, and there cut it into pieces, with wine and good drink: and after a new fashion, to prevent spoiling the cake, did put so many titles into a hat, and so drew cuts; and I was the Queene; and The. Turner, King — Creed, Sir Martin Marr-all; and Betty, Mrs. Millicent: and so we were mighty merry till it was night; and then, being moonshine and fine frost, they went home, I lending some of them my coach to help to carry them, and so my wife and I spent the rest of the evening in talk and reading, and so with great pleasure to bed.

22 Annotations

Eric Walla  •  Link

What a beautiful image this entry draws. And no arguments or repercussions from having a "very pretty girl" present! Another memory for Sam to hold dear.

Margaret  •  Link

...after a new fashion, to prevent spoiling the cake, did put so many titles into a hat, and so drew cuts...

Does this mean that the custom was to put pieces of paper (or maybe some non-paper items) into the cake before it was baked? I must admit, the new custom of putting papers into a hat sounds easier on everyone, and somewhat more sanitary!

Michael L  •  Link

This is definitely an entry where I wish I could go back and be part of the gathering. It sounds like a jolly time.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"a noble cake, and there cut it into pieces, with wine and good drink: and after a new fashion, to prevent spoiling the cake, did put so many titles into a hat, and so drew cuts"

Methinks drawing the names of the several roles to be played for the evening (King, Queen, Sir Martin Marr-all and Mrs. Millicent) out of a hat would not require the destruction of every piece of the "noble cake" to find the (King) Bean and (Queen) Pea inside!

More festive and decorous indeed!!

Katherine  •  Link

Sam calls this Twelfth Day, but it's actually Epiphany. Was it common to confuse the twelfth day of Christmas with Epiphany?

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Twelfth Night is a festival in some branches of Christianity marking the coming of the Epiphany and concluding the Twelve Days of Christmas.

"In medieval and Tudor England, the Twelfth Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve ­ now more commonly known as Halloween. The Lord of Misrule symbolizes the world turning upside down. On this day the King and all those who were high 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. This Lord of Misrule tradition dates back to pre-Christian European festivals such as the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia."

Mary  •  Link

"to prevent spoiling the cake"

The tradition at this time was to bake a pea and a bean into the cake. Whoever found the pea in their piece of cake then became queen for the night's revels and the person who found the bean became king.

Presumably this could lead to some destructive rummaging in the cake when no-one's slice had produced the necessary objects and Sam takes measures to prevent this from happening by having the company draw lots. The inclusion of papers designating Sir Martin Mar=All and Mrs. Millicent seems to be a Pepysian modernism to increase the fun for other members of the party.

A Twelfth Night cake was an expensive article; you wouldn't want to see it torn to bits by frustrated revellers.

Tony Eldridge  •  Link

How satisfying for Sam to send his coach to collect his former rival Creed.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Sir Martin Mar-all was referenced by other poets for the foolishness of the title character, who, in order to impress his mistress Millicent, mimes playing a lute and lip-syncs while another character makes music from within. Of course, he continues lip-syncing and strumming his quiet lute after the true player ceases to make any sounds and exposes himself as a fraud."

L&M note Millicent tricks Sir Martin into marrying a lady's maid -- evidently a turnabout!

Dorothy  •  Link

I have read of Twelfth Night cakes in some of Agatha Christie's books. In these cases the cake had a variety of small articles baked into it in addition to the bean, which by Christie's time meant simply good luck. For instance, whoever got the thimble would be an old maid, a ring meant marriage, getting the coin meant prosperity and so on. She mentions some of the more finicky cooks wrapped the items in waxed paper. Pepys' solution is much more sophisticated!

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Why was the bean a token for the King?
Is it that the bean's a symbol of the head? of a secret?

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Both the bean and the pea are secreted in pods. Today we know they are both legumes.

Jenny  •  Link

Twelfth night (6 January) is the traditional day to take down the Christmas decorations. It is considered very unlucky to leave them up after that.

Nate  •  Link

"Why was the bean a token for the King? "

My first thoughts ...

1. Well, Terry, the bean is the larger of the two! and the King, if not larger than the queen, has more power.

2. Well, Terry, the bean is the symbol of flatulence which is more Kingly than Queenly IMHO.

Scott  •  Link

12th night is also the time to start eating King Cake in New Orleans. Instead of a bean there is a tiny baby doll that represents Jesus. Whoever gets the baby is responsible for buying the next King Cake. There was a parade to St. Louis Cathedral on Friday night celebrating 12th night including someone dressed as Joan of Arc, it is her birthday on the 6th as well.

Australian Susan  •  Link

The items traditionally found in a 12th Night cake were transferred to Christmas Puddings. You can still buy here (Australia) silver Christmas Pudding charms of the type described by Dorothy. In our family, in England,we used silver threepenny bits (carefully saved and reused year by year) and my mother used to wrap them in waxed paper. Finding the silver thrupenny was good luck for the year. It is interesting to see the evolution of customs as shown in the variety of these entries.

Another one linked to this time of year was Plough Monday, which was the first Monday after 12th night and signified the end of holiday times and the start of farm work again.

In some country churches in England, this is still marked by a plough (usually an old one) being brought into church on the Sunday before Plough Monday to be blessed. Some vicars also now bless tractors driven into the church car park. One church we went to in Cheshire used to bless the first lamb of the year as well which would be born around this time in modern animal husbandry.

Daniel Jones  •  Link

Now that I have Danish in-laws, I thoroughly enjoy their Christmas tradition of eating a rice pudding with slivered almonds that is also hiding a whole almond. The one who finds the whole almond will get a prize. The pudding is served with warmed cherry sauce at Julefrokost (Christmas lunch) or on Christmas Eve. The Danes enjoy withholding discovery of the whole almond until the whole pudding has gone round for seconds and thirds.

pepfie  •  Link

Alas, the clouded eye of the fickle beholder:

"... The. and Betty Turner, the latter of which is a *very* pretty girl ..."

yet but two days ago:

"... Betty I did long to see, and she is *indifferent* [OED 5 To some extent, in some degree (as intermediate between very or very much and not at all); moderately, tolerably, fairly; esp. indifferently well, pretty well. (Cf. indifferent adv.) Now rare.] pretty ..."

nix  •  Link

I was in Rome on January 6 this year and discovered that it is a HUGE holiday there -- throngs in all the public squares. Piazza Navona was impassable, like Times Square on New Year's Eve.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Plough Monday is the traditional start of the English agricultural year. While local practices may vary, Plough Monday is generally the first Monday after Twelfth Day (Epiphany), 6 January.[1][2] References to Plough Monday date back to the late 15th century.[2] The day before Plough Monday is sometimes referred to as Plough Sunday.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"Beginning with King Henry VII, the nobility was rigorously taxed and deprived until it began to submit to a bureaucratic central government.
"The numbers of servants noble households kept were gradually pared in order to meet successively reduced budgets. The tailors, seamstresses and the like that were released began to reappear with high-end shops in cities and towns.

"Over the same period, the Achator’s title was shortened to “Cator” and his delicacies to “cates”.
"That, in turn, became the office of the “Catorer”. By the 18th century, all but the rare nobleman hired a local “caterer” for a day or two in order to staff and provide the “cates” for his annual Christmas bash."

Outsourcing, 17th century style:…

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