Saturday, January 5, 2013

Twelfth Night pranks

The beguiling display of elaborate cakes in the windows lured those walking by and waiting patrons too close to the window sills.

Mischievous boys would nail, NAIL the coat tails to the sills or pin adults coats together.. as many as "eight to ten persons." ...

Twelfth Night, on January 6, was celebrated twelve days after Christmas.   Large cakes with "characters" were purchased at confectioners, bakers and gingerbread shops.  In a previous post, with more pictures, there is a list of links for images and recipes for the cake. HERE
The following passage is from The Every-day Book by  William Hone. London: 1826 -

This "paradise of dainty devices," is crowded by successive and successful desirers of the seasonable delicacies, while alternate tapping of hammers and peals of laughter, from the throng surrounding the house [shop], excite smiles from the inmates [customers].

On Twelfth-night in London, boys assemble round the inviting shops of the pastrycooks, and dexterously nail the coat-tails of spectators, who venture near enough, to the bottoms of the window frames; or pin them together strongly by their clothes.
Sometimes eight or ten persons find themselves thus connected. The dexterity and force of the nail driving is so quick and sure, that a single blow seldom fails of doing the business effectually.

Withdrawal of the nail without a proper instrument is out of the question; and consequently, the person nailed must either leave part of his coat, as a cognizance of his attachment, or quit the spot with a hole in it.

At every nailing and pinning shouts of laughter arise from the perpetrators and the spectators. Yet it often happens to one who turns and smiles at the duress of another, that he also finds himself nailed.

Efforts at extrication increase mirth, nor is the presence of a constable, who is usually employed to attend and preserve free “ingress, egress, and regress,” sufficiently awful to deter the offenders.

Twelfth Night - poem excerpt from Comic Almanac 1841

So one twelfth-day—that is, one sixth—
She went the cakes to view:
Like all the world, who feel, that day,
A cake-o√ęthes too.

Of course the boys soon pinn'd her fast,
(No greater plagues on earth!)
And her poor gown became the vic-
Tim of their boy-strous mirth.

A cracker, too, by sad mischance,
And while with fear she panted,
At one fell bounce, soon fired her flounce—
Though not the spark she wanted.

A hero bold who stood close by,
Quick to her rescue flew,
And tore away the flaming robe:—
Her pocket vanish'd too.

Other posts on Twelfth Night cakes, shop windows, pranks, even a folded napkin HERE

Hone, William. The Every-day Book. London: 1826 - writeup & 1st image
Goodrich, Samuel G. The Every day book for youth by Peter Parley. 1834 - 2nd image
Cruikshank, George. The Comic Almanack. Jan 1841 3rd image and poem
Hervey, Thomas Kibble. Book of Christmas. London: 1836 last image

©2013 Patricia Bixler Reber

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