Making the most of Twelfth Night
There may be confusion about the date of Twelfth Night, but there is little confusion about an epiphany or revelation when it occurs.
According to the OED, Twelfth-day is the 6th of January, the twelfth day of Christmas, and Twelfth-night is "the evening before Twelfth-day, formerly observed as a time of merrymaking", the evening of January 5th. But according to Wiki, Twelfth Night "is often "taken to mean the evening of the Twelfth Day itself, the sixth of January".
Note: Sigh. In the intervening year, Wiki has corrected this entry to accord with the OED.
Whatever night they chose, they were serious about celebrating Twelfth Night in England. “Twelfth Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve (Halloween). A King or Lord of Misrule would be appointed to run the Christmas festivities, and Twelfth Night was the end of his period of rule. The common theme was that the normal order of things was reversed” (says Wiki).
Epiphany, which means the sudden revelation of truth, is celebrated on 6 January. The feast day commemorates the visit of the Magi and the revelation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
Shakespeare is the Lord of Misrule in his play in Twelfth Night. Viola, a shipwrecked woman, has disguised herself as a man, and is compelled to woo a woman for the Duke whose servant she has become. Unfortunately Viola has fallen in love with the Duke. Adding to the confusion, her identical twin brother arrives on the scene, and the woman that Viola is wooing falls in love with him, but thinks she is in love with Viola. It’s then that one of my all-time favorite lines emerges –
“Be that thou know’st thou art, and then thou art as great as that thou fear’st.” Be all you know you are, for then you are as great as anything or anyone you fear.
Christ often says, 'Do not be afraid'. I think that people who overcome fear must experience an epiphany.