Fringe Box



Twelfth Night Traditionally Celebrated During a ‘Riotous’ Evening

Published on: 7 Jan, 2017
Updated on: 8 Jan, 2017

The colourful Mummers gather at the start of celebrations.

Up to 150 wassailers, traditionally celebrating twelfth night, toured some of Guildford’s pubs last night (Jan 6th) causing merriment at every venue.

One of the celebrants, morris man Phil Gorton of Farncombe said: “The pubs were packed and it was a riotous night!”

In accordance with tradition, at the first pub, those in attendance were invited to have a piece of the Twelfth Night cake. Whoever found a dried bean or a pea, hidden in the cake, became the King and Queen of Misrule for the night. This year “King Colin II” presided over events.

The wooden wassail bowl, normally charged with spiced ale or mull wine, being offered around.

Phil Gorton continued: “In each of the five places that we visited, the Guildford Mummer’s play was performed followed carols and wassail songs – not the boring standard issue ones but traditional versions, some of which are local to Surrey.

“There are always plenty of singers who come along to bolster the unofficial choir and, as happens each year, there was a story teller at The Angel.

“Finally, at each place, three crosses are chalked onto the beams to protect the house and bring good luck for the next year.”

“We visited The Star, The Keep, The Angel, The Three Pigeons and finished at The Royal Oak where we always stay until we are no longer welcome. The event is long established and were were accompanied by up to 150 followers.”

Wassail is a spiced ale or mulled wine traditionally drunk on Twelfth Night and Christmas Eve. Often it would be poured into a wooden bowl and passed round. Twelfth Night used to be considered to be January 5th, the counting starting from Christmas Day, but by the 18th century most celebrated it on Jan 6th which tied in with Epiphany. The three cross mark left at each point visited, is thought to have derived from the three wise men.

The event was organised by the Pilgrim Morris Men who are based in Guildford. They dance outside in the summer around the local area. Phil added: “It is a growing “side” that is always on the lookout for new members, particularity at this time of year which is when they practice.”

The Pilgrim Morris Men

For more details contact Phil on 01483 420763 or email “the bagman”: Further details can be found on their website:


Share This Post

Responses to Twelfth Night Traditionally Celebrated During a ‘Riotous’ Evening

  1. John Maloney Reply

    January 7, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    I come to this every year from Exeter. It’s wonderful event.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *