Delaware Public Media

Read House celebrates history of New Years, Twelfth Night

Dec 29, 2016

New Years is right around the corner – and some historic traditions associated with the holiday are on display at the Read House through Saturday.


 

A tour through the historic 14,000 square foot New Castle home spotlights Read and Laird family traditions – celebrated in the Read house from the 1790s through the 1930s.

 

Read House Visitor Services Manager Katie Parker says the theme is “Tales and Traditions” – and highlights specific holidays, such as the Twelfth Night.

 

“It’s more of an English tradition, but we call it Epiphany in the church calendar. It would have been the Twelfth Night – or the last night of Christmas celebrations,” Parker said.

 

Parker says the main Twelfth Night celebrations took place on January 5th and represented a culmination of the holidays – complete with a lavish meal including goose, candied cranberries and a Twelfth Night cake.

 

And, of course, lots of dancing.

 

“In the early 1800s that’s when you would have had your balls, when you would have had your large family dinners, when you would have had your celebrations – your true celebrations – rather than having them on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day," Parker said.

 

Parker says the tour even highlights the traditions of the kitchen servants. They played an important role in Twelfth Night preparations but are all too often left out of history.

 

The Laird family lived in the house after the Reads, from the 1920s through the 1970s.

The Laird family also built a full German pub in the basement of the house.

 

“They had that added in the mid 20s," Parker said. "So even during prohibition it was here. It wasn’t a speakeasy, but it certainly was an entertainment space.”

 

 

Parker says the family also collected German beer steins and clown-embellished New Year's Eve noisemakers – which were made out of metal in the 1930s.

 

Vintage Royal Doulton dinner china is set for a New Year's Dinner.

There’s also a time for visitors to share their own holiday traditions.

 

The tour runs 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. through Saturday.