When: 4th January 2015, from 2.15pm
Where: Bankside, London
What is it?
Twelfth Night is a celebration of the New Year, mixing ancient seasonal customs with contemporary festivity. Twelfth Night is celebrated every year in the Bankside area of London with singing, dancing, plays and storytelling.
This year’s event begins at 2.15pm with the Holly Man arriving from the Thames. The Holly Man is the winter guise of the Green Man, a popular figure in pagan myths and folklore. The Holly Man appears decked in fantastic green garb and evergreen foliage. He usually arrives (weather permitting) in the Thames Waterman Cutter, The Trinity Tide.
As part of the Twelfth Night celebrations there will then be wassailing, a play and merriment. The wassail is led by the Bankside Mummers, along with the Holly Man and the crowd to ‘bring in the green’ and toast or ‘wassail’ the people, the River Thames and the Globe. This is an old tradition which is meant to encourage good growth.
The wassail is followed by a Mummers’ Play performed at the Bankside Jetty. The Mummers’ Play is a traditional folk play, featuring the Turkey Sniper, Clever Legs, the Old ‘Oss and many others, all dressed in spectacular costumes. The play is full of wild verse and boisterous action, a time-honoured part of the season.
But that is not all! Cakes are distributed to the crowd at the end of the play. A bean and a pea are hidden in two of the cakes. Those who find them are crowned King and Queen for the day. They then lead the people through the local streets to the nearby historic George Inn. The George Inn in Southwark is London’s only surviving galleried coaching inn. Here the crowd usually warms up with some storytelling, dancing and mulled wine.
Everyone is welcome to attend the free Twelfth Night celebration. The event is organised by the Lions part, a group of professional performers who come together every year to celebrate the changing seasons and explore English heritage. Their performances often involve local artists and community groups making costumes, banners and props, often using recycled or unwanted materials. The company has strong links with storytellers, musicians, dancers, street performers, re-enactors, costume-makers and conservation groups.
More info: www.thelionspart.co.uk/twelfthnight