Bonkers Twelfth Night Celebrations This Sunday

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 40 months ago
Bonkers Twelfth Night Celebrations This Sunday

The Holly Man and his wassail bowl.

A figure calling himself the Holly Man, draped from head to toe in greenery, floats down the Thames before characters including the Turkey Sniper, the Doctor, Clever Legs and the Old 'Oss perform a 'freestyle folk combat play'. No, this isn't the latest series of The Mighty Boosh, but the Bankside Twelfth Night festivities taking place outside the Globe Theatre this Sunday.

There's some contention over whether Twelfth Night is on 5 or 6 January, but The Lions part — a troupe of actors and musicians with an Olde English bent — are defying all convention by holding their wacky celebration on 4 January.

Following the Holly Man's display of wassailing, and "wild verse and boisterous action" courtesy of a group named The Mummers, Bankside crowds are introduced to King Bean and Queen Pea, who dish out cakes. Find the one with a bean or a pea baked inside, and you'll become honorary royalty for the rest of the day.

The Twelfth Night parade heads the direction of the local boozer.

As all decent parties are liable to do, Bankside Twelfth Night then moves down the pub — namely The George Inn, Borough — where you'll be regaled with further storytelling, dancing, something called the Kissing Wishing Tree mulled wine and mince pies (on the off-chance you haven't already had your fill of wine and pastry recently).

Bankside Twelfth Night starts at 2.30pm and is free to attend.

For those looking to say cheerio to the festive season north of the river, The Geffrye is hosting a Farewell to Christmas on 6 January. There's holly and ivy burning, carol singing, stories about Epiphany, and mulled wine and Twelfth Night cake (on the off-chance... etc). Festivities unfurl in the museum's garden between 3.30pm and 5pm.

Last Updated 02 January 2015

Paul brandford

Does anyone celebrate 12th night on THE 12th night?

Please do not use the excuse that 12th night is a week day!


The crucial thing to know is that the church's day began at sundown each day and lasts until sundown the following day - following the pattern inherited by the early Christians from the Jewish tradition. So, Twelfth Night is the evening of the 5th, and Twelfth Day - also a name from the past - is the daylight hours of 6th January. This makes sense if you realize that Christmas Day begins at sundown on 24th December (for which reason, the broadcast carol service on the radio includes the "special" last verse of "O come all faithful" - "Yea Lord, we greet thee", because by that time of the afternoon the sun is down and Christmas has begun already). The days of Church festivals are counted from the day after the feast day itself, so the first day of Christmas starts at sundown on the 25th, the second at sundown on the 26th, and so on. This brings us to the Twelfth Night on the evening of the 5th.