Channelling medieval times in the B.C. Interior: society celebrates 12th Night

While many people may be pulling down their Christmas decorations, a chapter of an international medieval re-enactment organization in West Kootenay is gearing up for one more holiday feast.

Members of the Shire of Appledore, which is a branch of the organization which covers an area from Princeton along the southern border of B.C. to the west shore of Kootenay Lake, are celebrating the Twelfth Night of Christmas with a party in Trail, B.C. on Saturday.

The Twelfth Night, also known as a Christian feast day called the Eve of the Epiphany, falls on the twelfth day after Christmas, marking the end of the holiday season.

The Society For Creative Anachronism, an international non-profit organization with over 30,000 members who research and re-enact medieval skills, combat, arts and traditions, is not religious. But during medieval times, Twelfth Night was a big celebration. 

Submitted by JoAnn Turner

"At the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas everybody has to go back to work. So you need to have a big party to celebrate the end of your festivities," said Mary Defeo, the local chapter president of the Shire of Appledore.

"In the medieval times, it kind of would've been an emphasis on food and merry making."

One tradition at the event, a dish called the King Cake, is served with a bean in it. Whoever gets the piece with the bean is named "Lord or Lady of Misrule," and gets to tell everyone what to do for the night. 

Submitted by JoAnn Turner

Defeo, whose medieval name is Magdalen of Haphazard Manor, joined the group over 30 years ago and helps organize events that recreate medieval traditions. 

"We kind of make the Middle Ages come to life by exploring it and recreating wearing the clothing of the time [and] doing the activities and crafts practiced between 600 and 1600 A.D.," Defeo told Daybreak South host Chris Walker. 

The Society For Creative Anachronism was started in California in the 1960s and is now made up of 19 kingdoms, which are broken down into principalities and then further into regional shires.

Members from different shires, such as the Shire of Danescombe in the Okanagan, sometimes travel to other shires for events, such as the the Twelfth Night celebration happening in Appledore.

The Shire of Appledore was founded in Nelson, B.C., in 1980. Defeo's friends had previously been to events in Spokane and she thought it was fun, so she decided to start a local chapter.

Events include tournaments, royal courts, feasts, dancing and workshops for things like armoured fighting. 

Submitted by JoAnn Turner

"I like the family attitude of it. I like recreating things like the beautiful costumes, and the handwork and I really like the singing, and the heraldry, and the pageantry and I like finding out how people lived back in the Middle Ages."

At the Twelfth Night event happening at the Oasis Hall In Trail on Saturday (one day before the actual Twelfth Night), there will be a potluck with a $5 donation fee to cover the cost of the hall.

The entire Kingdom of An Tir, which is made up of B.C., Washington state, Oregon and a corner of northern Idaho, will have a larger Twelfth Night event later in January, and other shires will also be having winter feasts throughout the month.

"We always wear medieval attire, or our best attempt at medieval attire," said Defeo.

"We bring a modern attitude though. So you know, we don't have servants, and we don't mistreat people and we have no plague."