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Make the Holiday Last Longer with a Twelfth Night Celebration

Historic London Town and Gardens hosts Jan. 9 event highlighting colonial traditions.

Right now many of us are in the throes of the holiday season. But often the holiday cheer doesn't last long after Christmas Day and if it does then certainly not past New Year's Day.  In the dizzying rush of the holidays, it is easy to miss out on what the celebrations are all about.

About 200 years ago, the tradition of Twelfth Night was a common celebration in communities like ours. These festivities did not begin until the 25th and lasted nearly a week after New Years Day. Unlike our modern view of the season, the celebrations were less about material gifts than just sharing a good time with friends and family.

On Jan. 9, will host a Twelfth Night Celebration where guests will have the opportunity to experience this colonial  tradition. We recently talked with Rod Cofield, director of interpretation and museum programs, about the event and its relation to the community.

"This was the time of year that these types of balls and dances were held. Typical of tobacco or agriculture-based communities, this time of year people were not working in the fields as long," Cofield said.

He explained that parties were common occurrences in communities like these where people got together to brighten up cold, winter nights.

"Its darker for longer, why not brighten up the evenings with a party. Its not like anyone can work," Cofield said.

He explained that there were religious holidays observed—including Christmas and Epiphany—but these were marked with church services. In addition, celebrating the New Year was not nearly as popular as it is today. It seems that Twelfth Night was one of the most popular parties for this time of year. An event marking the conclusion of a 12-day festival beginning on Dec. 25.

The Historic London Town and Gardens event is being coordinated by Cofield and Gene Stray along with ten costumed players. There will be a variety of activities which relate to customs also carried out during traditional Twelfth Night celebrations.

Cofield explained what they hope to get out of the event. "It's meant to be something fun, for people to drink, dance and converse. Its colonial with a modern twist,  meant to extend the holiday cheer and offer some fun for those long cold winter nights," he said.

Nearly every room of the historic William Brown House at London Town will have activities for guests to enjoy. Activities like fortune telling, another common tradition will also be part of the celebrations. Guests will pick their fortunes for the coming year from a hat followed by the burning of holly branches for good luck.

The evening will include food, dancing, games and music. And, there will be the Twelfth Night cake. The tradition is that a small object is baked into the cake and whoever discovers it is then crowned the Lord of Misrule. Cofield explained that a Lord and Lady of Misrule will each be crowned in a similar fashion and they will then be charged with leading the feast.

"They will choose the music and lead the toasts," Cofield said.

of Annapolis will be providing food for the event. There will also be beer, wine and some traditional beverages as well.

"We want people to have fun, and to associate fun with London Town while we get our name out there," Cofield said.

Tickets for the event are still available and are $35 in advance or $50 at the door. Tickets are only $25 to Londontowne members and two individual memberships will be raffled off during the event. For more information or to purchase tickets follow this link or contact Historic London Town and Gardens at 410-222-1919.

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