The old Twelve days of Christmas used to be Christmas Eve until January 6th. The poor weather at this time of year meant that there was little work that agricultural workers could do. As more people worked not on the land but in factories and then offices it became harder to take so much time off.
In the 1970s it was still common for most businessses to be closed from Christmas to New Year. In the last decade many businesses especially shops may re-open on Boxing Day meaning that holidays have become shorter. However old traditions remain with many leaving Christmas trees up until January 6th.
Up until the 1900s the Twelve Days would have been an extended period of feasting, singing and dancing. In particular Twelfth Night was known for its rich, fruity and highly decorated cakes.
The recipe book in our collection from 1782 suggests the following recipe for Plumb Cakes
To make little Plumb Cakes
Take a pound of flour, rub into it a half pound of butter, the same of sugar, a little beaten mace, beat four eggs very well ( leave out half the whites) with three spoonfuls of yeast, out to it a quarter of a pint of warm cream, strain them into your flour, and make it up light, set it before the fire to rise; just before you send it to the oven, put in three quarters of a pound of currants.