Selentag and The Twelfth Night
The quest for the authentic Christmas Spirit continues with this perspective from Melvin Gorham on what is now known as “The Twelfth Night”.
Originally published in 1970 as “The Ancient Story of Selentag” here is the description of the holiday “Selentag” from the revised “Kris Krinkle and The Moon Princess”*:
A season we call Selentag began when yonder young moon first showed in tonight’s sky. It will last until that same moon has grown full, and then will continue on until the moon has again shrunk to the same size and set in the west some twelve days hence. Among my people, a woman and a woman’s love, at all times, are given honor equal to a man’s courage and will. But because my men are exceptionally brave and zealous in their defense of honor, and because the winters are long and dark in my country, we have designated a season surrounding the first full moon after the winter solstice when a woman’s love is not only honored equally with a man’s valor; it is honored absolutely. During this time, woman and woman’s love are honored wholly and exclusively, while the spirit of man sleeps quietly, even as, beneath a deep snow, a bear goes into hibernation. Anyone who provokes or issues a challenge during Selentag without extremely good cause is held in contempt by my people. He forgoes the honor usually accorded a brave man who fights with judgement and fairness when in honor he cannot avoid fighting. Often men who drink and sing the songs of Selentag together forget their differences and fail to issue the challenges that their restraint has caused them to hold back in deference to the holidays…
Each night while the moon is young, open house will be held by the older children of every hearthside, while adults and small children go from house to house, everywhere welcomed to enter, eat and drink by any hearthfire, and join in songs and merriment. On the night of the full moon, and from noontime of the day preceding it to noontime of the day that follows, it is customary for everyone to travel as little as possible—all remaining as house guests in whatever home the preceding midday finds them. Because all are inside by their hearthfires in congenial happiness, the full moon shines down on a silent night of profound peace, as woman’s love would have it. Then the nights following, while the moon wanes to the present size again, the adults and small children hold open house, and all the older children visit. They, then, are entertained with food, drink, songs and merriment.
Last night was celebrated as “The Twelfth Night” among Christian traditions.
Under Gorham’s description, it should be January 10th this year.
*ISBN 0-914752-29-4 Available from Sovereign Press, 326 Harris Road, Rochester, WA 98579