Last weekend saw the Companye celebrate the medieval feast of Twelfth Night with a banquet at the spectacular Bede House. The Bede House is a 15th C building that was created by Archbishop Henry Chichele, you can read more about this amazing building here. It is a wonderful place complete with vaulted wooden ceiling, gargoyles, and a large fire hearth that is still in use to this day.
This year we hosted jointly with our great MSS friends the House of Bayard and it was great to see so many of them there.
WHY TWELFTH NIGHT?
Twelfth Night is a festival in some branches of Christianity marking the coming of the Epiphany. Different traditions mark the date of Twelfth Night on either 5 January or 6 January; the Church of England, Mother Church of the Anglican Communion, celebrates Twelfth Night on the 5th and “refers to the night before Epiphany, the day when the nativity story tells us that the wise men visited the infant Jesus”. In Western Church traditions, the Twelfth Night concludes the Twelve Days of Christmas.
In medieval and Tudor England, Candlemas traditionally marked the end of the Christmas season, although later, Twelfth Night came to signal the end of Christmastide, with a new but related season of Epiphanytide running until Candlemas.
A popular Twelfth Night tradition was to have a bean and pea hidden inside a Twelfth-night cake; the “man who finds the bean in his slice of cake becomes King for the night while the lady who finds a pea in her slice of cake becomes Queen for the night”. Following this selection, Twelfth Night parties would continue and would include the singing of Christmas carols, as well as feasting.
Twelfth Night was an evening of merry making and tomfoolery, hence the naming of William Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night which was originally to be staged on that date.
Since the Companye’s inception, we have always celebrated the winter season with either a banquet or twelfth night celebration. This year for the first time we would combine both!
Firstly, the High Steward sent finger bowls for people to wash their hands before the feast. The servers had their sash denoting their function, which was also useful for dealing with hot dishes.
As appropriate for the time, the food was served in removes, with guests allowed to choose from what they wanted.
This year we had:
- Onion Pottage with bread trencher (Editor’s Note: This was delicious, I could have eaten a truckful)
- Roast Pork, with stuffing
- A Pie of Apple, with cream from the Dairy.
- Local Cheeses
- And culminating in an aforementioned twelfth night cake!
Our very first twelfth night cake was made for us all the way back in 2010 by our dear friend Rob Atkinson who sadly passed away in 2017, and was very much missed at our table this year – Nodo Firmo. This year, Clark was King for a night, and Sarah was Queen for a night. All hail King Clark and Queen Sarah! Well, until tomorrow anyhow.
The Marchpane was decorated in an interesting but authentic style!
During the feast, we presented our annual awards, these are granted annually for the best combat, archery and living history encampment. Finally there is a secret vote for the person who has done the most for the Companye that year, and it was a close run thing but Phil D. was selected for his outstanding ability to engage with the public throughout our events – well done Phil! Richly deserved.
MUSIC & DANCING
Back in the 80’s, the Musicians Union ran a campaign called “Keep Music Live”. They have a sound argument, as you simply can’t beat it.
Firstly, we were treated to two songs from our own Phil and Kof. We are blessed to have such talent within our group and it is always a joy to hear them sing.
(Hint: if you enjoyed that, you can listen to songs from previous years here.)
This year, we had a special treat lined up. We were privileged to have our friends Myal Piper play for us throughout the banquet, and to lead us in some wonderful dancing as the evening drew to a close. Their performance was world class, our dancing – less so.
The first dance we did was a simple ring dance.
Dance 1 – Simple Ring Dance
Dance 2 – aka the Shake and Wag
Our second dance was similar, but featured the man shaking his thing, and his lady partner shaking her finger to tell him off. Eat your heart out Beyonce Knowles!
Dance 3 – Line Dance (with nods to Oranges & Lemons)
This one was more complicated and took a while to learn (and even then the start was, er less than optimal!). Those of a certain age will recognise ‘casting off’ from Country Dancing at school, and the arch is reminiscent of the ‘Oranges and Lemons’ children’s game of yore.
There were more dances but sadly we were too busy having fun to record them all. Dancing by candlelight in an original 15th Century building to period music was a fantastic experience, and one we hope to repeat again.
In addition to the dancing and singing, we had our annual Mummer’s Play. This took place on the raised dais and was fun – we all quite enjoyed “Laid Marion”!
All in all, it was an amazing evening, possibly our best banquet yet.
And so, as the winter fire burns bright we turn our attention to the season ahead – who knows what it will bring…?