Twelfth Night is an annual seasonal celebration held in the Bankside area of London. It is a celebration of the New Year, mixing ancient seasonal customs with contemporary festivity. It is free, accessible to all and happens whatever the weather.
To herald the celebration, the extraordinary Holly Man, the Winter guise of the Green Man from pagan myths and folklore, decked in fantastic green garb and evergreen foliage, appears from the River Thames brought by the Thames Cutter, Master Shipbroker (boat subject to weather!).
With the crowd, led by the Bankside Mummers, the Holly Man 'brings in the green' and 'wassails' or toasts the people and the River Thames - an old tradition encouraging good growth. The Globe is wassailed in like fashion.
The Mummers then process to the Bankside Jetty, and perform the traditional 'freestyle' Folk Combat Play of St. George, featuring the Turkey Sniper, Clever Legs, the Old 'Oss and many others, dressed in their spectacular 'guizes'. The play is full of wild verse and boisterous action, a time-honoured part of the season recorded from the Crusades.
Cakes distributed at the end of the play have a bean and a pea hidden in two of them. Those who find them are hailed King and Queen for the day and crowned with ceremony. They then lead the people through the streets to the historic George Inn in Borough High Street for a fine warming up with Storytelling, the Kissing Wishing Tree and more Dancing.
For the latest local news and events direct to your inbox every Monday, you need our weekly email newsletter SE1 Direct.
7,000+ locals read it every week. Can you afford to miss out?
Read the latest issue before signing up