Twelfth Night has come late for us this year as we’ve decided to celebrate it Tudor style as an aid to one of the apprentice’s homework. How convenient then that the National Trust should be holding just such an event at nearby Lacock Abbey last Sunday.
Unsurprisingly the celebrations were not that far removed from the ones we’d just enjoyed at home. Holly, ivy, mistletoe, rosemary , candles and orange pomanders festooned the nooks and crannies of the medieval cloisters. I always use rosemary in our decorations and I discovered that it has its roots in the belief that Mary placed the infant Jesus’s clothes over rosemary bushes to fragrance them whilst they dried.
The entertainment came in the form of traditional music and a Mummers play. Not at all raucous as the audience were very well-behaved but my children are more than capable of providing that unaided!
We came home to a tea which included a special Twelfth Night cake or King cake. Any cake recipe will do – I chose a basic madeira as we’ve had enough rich chocolate and fruit cake to last until Easter. When you mix up the batter drop a bean, coin or other small object into the batter. The man or boy who finds this object in his slice of cake is declared “King of the Bean.” and ruled over proceedings. If a woman or girl receives the bean, she is queen and appoints a man as her king. Everyone else becomes a member of the royal court. We saved gold paper hats from Christmas for the king and queen to wear. I imagine this is where the tradition of lucky charms or coins in Christmas puddings and wearing paper crowns originates.
It’s a great way to extend the Christmas season and the assault on the senses – the colourful Mummers rag costumes, the sound of the bagpipes and lute, the smell of the rosemary, beeswax candles ,oranges and cloves, the feel of the holly leaves and the taste of the cake locks the whole experience into the memory ….and, as it happened resulted in a gold star for the homework!!
This week I’m off to wassail with the Anglo Saxons at a local school in their orchard. I’m just off to find my thickest thermals!.