Our Twelfth Night Party
by Barbara Laufersweiler
Faith at Home
Have you wondered how to throw a Christmas party without that frazzled feeling that's entirely too common in December?
It's possible if you just do what I do: have a Twelfth Night party to celebrate the very last -- yes, the twelfth -- day of Christmas! After the busy days of December and the excitement of Christmas Day, followed a week later by New Year's, I'm not quite ready to face somber January. Actually, I don't have to -- it's time to get ready for our annual Twelfth Night party.
The first day of the traditional season of Christmas is Christmas Day, and the twelfth day is January 5 (I still count it every year to make sure I have it right!). The next day is the Feast of Epiphany, when many churches remember the arrival of the magi to see the young Jesus and also his baptism by John the Baptist, the beginning of Jesus's adult ministry.
Twelfth Night celebrations are traditional in France. As part of the festivities, a cake is served to family and guests. In that cake one or two diners will find a bean; those who find the beans become King or Queen for the night. I don't bake a bean in a cake, but for our Twelfth Night party we have lots of finger foods for adults and children, hot spiced cider and other things to drink, and of course we must have Christmas cookies!
The Christmas tree and all of our decorations are still up, so it's easy to feel festive. We play all our favorite Christmas CDs, too. Last time we had party hats for the kids; I think paper crowns would be fun for this year's party. We invite families, couples, and singles. Often January 5 is a weeknight, so we call it an open house held from 6 to 9 pm and tell everyone to feel comfortable coming any time.
I've developed a schedule, a recipe collection, and a To Do/To Get list. When I do my holiday dinner shopping in November and December, I pick up what I need for our Twelfth Night party as well. Our invitation list is somewhat based on our Christmas card list. I develop the party invitation list and design the invitations (usually postcards, since our party is quite casual) at the same time as our Christmas cards -- between Thanksgiving and the first week of December -- and set them aside until after Christmas Day.
Two days after Christmas is my personal deadline for mailing the invitations. A few days after Christmas, if I want Christmas-themed paper plates and napkins I pick them up at sale prices. We clean the house thoroughly before New Year's. I have collected recipes for easy make-ahead hors d'oeuvres as well as a few chocolate desserts and a rich cake or two that will keep well or freeze well; I make the food January 1 - 4.
The day before, January 4, I tidy the house, put away all clutter, and make the bathrooms spiffy, as well as set up the kitchen for party fun. For dinner that night, we order pizza! I always have things left to do on the day of the party, but if I take care of most of my To Do/To Get list beforehand, I am much more relaxed, I can enjoy the last-minute things, and I don't stress out my kids!
When the last guests have left, my husband and I like to put away leftover food, take care of dishes, and take out the garbage, so we will wake up to a relatively tidy house, a usable kitchen, and a dishwasher full of clean dishes. It's a nice way to relax after hosting a party, too. The day after is January 6, Epiphany, when we pack away the nativity scene and the rest of the Christmas decorations, and play Christmas music one last time while eating? party leftovers! Our Twelfth Night tradition is a great way to end the Christmas season.
Barbara Laufersweiler is an at-home mom, an Episcopalian, and the creator of Faith at Home,
http://www.faith-at-home.com, a Web site offering help to parents as they explore and enjoy faith with their children. Copyright © 2003 Barbara K. Laufersweiler. All rights reserved.
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