Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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CHAPTER XVI EPIPHANY TO CANDLEMAS
The Twelfth Cake and the "King of the Bean "—French Twelfth Night Customs— St. Basil's Cake in Macedonia—Epiphany and the Expulsion of Evils—The V. in Italy—The Magi as Present-bringers—Greek Epiphany Customs—Wassailing Fruit-trees—Herefordshire and Irish Twelfth Night Practices—The "Haxcy Hood " and Christmas Football—St. Knut's Day in Sweden—Rock Day Plough Monday—Candlemas, its Ecclesiastical and Folk Ceremonies—Farewells to Christmas.
The Epiphany.
Though the Epiphany has ceased to be a popular festival in Eng­land, it was once a very high day indeed, and in many parts of Europe it is still attended by folk-customs of great interest.* For the peasant of Tyrol, indeed, it is New Year's Day, the first of January being kept only by the townsfolk and modernized people.1
To Englishmen perhaps the best known feature of the secular festival is the Twelfth Cake. Some words of Leigh Hunt's will show what an important place this held in the mid-nineteenth century :—
"Christmas goes out in fine style,—with Twelfth Night. It finish worthy of the time. Christmas Day was the morning of the season ; New Year's Day the middle of it, or noon ; Twelfth Night is the night, brilliant with innumerable planets of Twclfth-cakcs. The whole island keeps court ; nay, all Christendom. All the world are
* It is probable that some customs practised at the Epiphany belong in reality to Christmas Day, Old Style.
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