Twelfth Night: confectionery and customs

Notes from 19th Century Birmingham

Twelfth001 Mary Clitheroe’s Twelfth Night party by “Phiz”

In recent times Twelfth Night has become the traditional time for taking down the Christmas tree, although there is now some dispute over whether the occasion should fall on the 5th or the 6th of January. A celebration dating back to the Middle Ages, during the nineteenth century it was one of the most popular of the Christmas holiday celebrations.

A detailed explanation of the origins and customs of the occasion was presented in a two column article in Birmingham’s Daily Post, January 6th, 1871, opening with a vivid description of an expected street scene:

This evening, if it happens to be tolerably fine, there will be a crowd at every confectioner’s window, admiring those indigestible dainties – the Twelfth Cakes; resplendent in all the colours of the rainbow, adorned with a multiplicity of grotesque ornaments and figures reposing amidst flowers, fruits and…

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