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The Annual Twelfth Night Celebration, an Ithaca tradition for four decades, is a rare example of what happens when people decide to entertain themselves, instead of letting someone else do it. It is primarily an evening of storytelling, in which the storytellers are members of the audience who feel like telling a story. Anyone is welcome to tell a story, and anyone is welcome to come listen. All ages are welcome. Stories can be true, or “true” (aren’t all stories “true”?). Most of the storytellers tell exactly one story a year in public, and that, of course, is at Twelfth Night. Yes, it’s perfectly OK to just come and listen. Bring a tasty treat to share, a couple of bucks to share expenses, and there’s all the makings of a great party.

The Annual Twelfth Night Celebration is the final event of the Twelve Days of Christmas, a fitting end to the holiday season, and a last gasp before we have to face the reality of January in Ithaca. In a traditional English Christmas recitation, Old Father Christmas says: “Christmas comes but once a year, and when it comes it brings good cheer!” So let us extend the good cheer through until Twelfth Night. The tradition of storytelling on Twelfth Night is centuries old, and forever contemporary.

At some point in the evening, the storytelling will be rudely interrupted by a band of traveling players and dancers, the “Champeons (sic) of Folly”, who will regale the assembled multitudes with an outrageous Mummers’ Play, with Morris dancers a-leaping and jingling. This will be followed by the pageantry of choosing and crowning the Monarch of Twelfth Night (the Lord or Lady of Mis-rule). The Monarch will then read the proclamation of pronouncements and predictions for the year 2019.

Come one, come all, be part of this tradition. It’s a lot of fun, and a lot of magic.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5 at the First Unitarian Church at 306 N. Aurora St., Ithaca.

Twelfth Night is presented by various members of Ithaca’s folk music community. For further information: Phil Shapiro 844-4535,

Featured image: John Henderson of Lodi tells a story at 12th Night. (Photo by Mary Ascenzi)

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