DOUGLASSVILLE — Colonial costumes, music, dance and merrymaking were on the menu.
The 1762 White Horse Tavern’s second annual Twelfth Night Revelries celebrated the Twelfth Night of Christmas.
Hosted by the Historic Preservation Trust of Berks County at its historic Douglassville tavern, the event featured festivities to celebrate the conclusion of the Yuletide season and the beginning of the New Year.
The 12 days of Christmas begin on Dec. 25 and end on Jan. 6, Epiphany or Three Kings' Day. The Twelfth Night is the evening prior on Jan. 5.
The event drew people from far and wide to enjoy one last holiday celebration.
“I saw the event advertised and thought, ‘That looks like fun,’” said attendee Rosalie Heller of West Reading. “I’m always talking about the 12 days of Christmas. I never take my decorations down until the twelfth day — the Epiphany. That (Twelfth Night Revelries) sounds like it would be interesting to do. To go see all of this.”
The Tavern was decorated with pine and holly and offered the public food and drink including slices from a ham hock and homemade wassail.
“If you like the traditions of old England, you’ve got to taste the wassail. You will not taste the alcohol but there are four — fifths of alcohol. They liked to party back in Tudar times,” said Berks County musician Dave Kline.
For the event, Kline made 10 gallons of wassail with a fifth each of Smugglers' Notch Distillery Bourbon, Manatawny Still Works maple whiskey, Bacardi gold rum, Bacardi raspberry rum and each ranges, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, apples, pears, pomegranate and apple cider.
A large group gathered in the White Horse Tavern’s parlor to watch the Amity Colonial Dancers perform. The group, who have been dancing together for about 12 years, included Susan Speros, Zachary Long, Beth Shuff, Shelley Brower and 10-year-old Cecelia Brower (Cecelia began dancing when she was 3 years old).
“All of our dances are from the British Isles. These are the dances and music that the settlers from Great Britain brought with them when they came here in the 17th and 18th century. These are really the precursors of American Folk Dancing,” said Speros of Cumru Township.
Amity Colonial Dancers performed seven songs twice during the gathering.
“At the beginning and the end of the dance, we bow and do a semi-curtsy to each other. This is called Honors. It is at the beginning and the end of every dance performed in Colonial times.
The woman does a very straight curtsy; it’s not the elaborate curtsy that you see during Civil War times. The man doffs his hat to show all assembled that he does not have a concealed weapon in his hat,” described Speros.
Berks County author and storyteller Charlie Adams read “Auld Lang Syne,” a poem attributed to Robert Burns.
“Burns didn’t really write this poem, but he is given credit. It is actually taken from an old Scottish Ballad,” explained Adams.
The audience joined in during the chorus: “For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne. We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, For auld lang syne.”
Dr. O.D. Hottenstein, dressed as George Douglass, owner of the White Horse Tavern, threw Yule Logs onto the three White Horse Tavern fires.
“The tradition of the Yule log goes back to ancient times,” said Kline. “Ancient Celtic times if you will … there was more of a belief in pagan ideas than Christianity. The stories get intertwined as the centuries go on, but basically, every year you have a wonderful gathering like this. Then, you have a wonderful fire and wonderful food and drink and dance and you celebrate your traditions and you wish each other a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. When the celebrations are winding down, the Lord of the house will put this year’s Yule log into the fire. After which, we’ll yell, ‘Wassail, wassail, wassail!’ It’s very important that the Yule log catches on fire. If it doesn’t, it’s bad luck!”
The White Horse Tavern at 31 Old Philadelphia Pike in Douglassville is a property owned and managed by the Historic Preservation Trust of Berks County.