There is some dispute as to whether the sixth of fifth of January is the twelfth day of Christmas depending on whether twelfth night was the fifth or sixth of January!
Twelfth Night is probably better known as the play by Shakespeare; it’s a comedy as you might expect for this season of the year and was probably written between 1601/02 – the first known performance was on the 2nd February 1602, at Candlemas. Candlemas is the formal end of Christmas although it is not much known about or celebrated. The play as you may know is about twins Viola and Sebastian; Shakespeare has a few shipwrecks in his plays and in this one the brother and sister become celebrated after their ship founders. Viola disguises herself as a boy and all sorts of confusion arises by people falling love with ‘the wrong’ person.
I was actually in Twelfth Night when I was at school… here is something I wrote about my experience:
I loved acting but I was hopeless when I was involved in it, at school. I became paralysed by nerves and would be all stiff and awkward… I’m sure I’d be better at it now… but I no longer have any interest in doing it.
I came across this programme for Twelfth Night; I was Curio, a gentleman, and my first line was ‘Will you go hunt my lord?’… so simple… but how to place the emphasis… Will you go hunt? Will you go hunt? Will you go hunt?… the more I practised it the more confused I became. One line, a single line… not a speech or soliloquy I could get in to… and when the Duke replied I had to say ‘The hart’… and that was my total lines for that scene.
I had some more lines, the Duke asks for a song and I replied ‘He is not here, so please your lordship that should sing it.’ and then in reply to a further question ‘Feste, the jester, my lord; a fool that the Lady Olivia’s father took much delight in. He is about the house.’
Try as I might Feste the jester became Festey the jestey… I’m sure no-one noticed but in rehearsals I got to dread my couple of lines…
Of course, on the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave me a whole huge pile of gifts – a partridge in a pear tree, doves, hens, birds, rings, geese, swans, milk maids, dancing ladies, lords, pipers piping, drummers… I seemed overwhelmed with birds of all descriptions – twenty-three of them, plus loads of people milking, dancing, leaping and making music…