Twelfth Night and
In and around Bregninge village and the western
part of Ærø, the Magi are celebrated for three to four days and nights around 6th January, whenpeople dress up and go visiting.150 years ago, this tradition was introduced on Ærø by a journeyman tailor who had been inspired by a custom from the neighbouring island of Als.On Twelfth Night in 1860 he came to a farm in Leby where he was owed money by the farmer’s
old widow. The tailor, who was in disguise, almost frightened the old woman to death, and she shouted: That‘s the Devil himself!
From then on, some ofthe villagers beganwalking around in disguise wearing masks. The tradition is still alive today. Many households have their
own special disguises which are used only forthis purpose, althoughwhatever garment you have will do, as long as you are not recognisable. For example, a young man may hide behind the mask of an old woman. In a high-pitched voice, the disguised revellers play pranks on people and move
from house to house, making certain that their
identity is not revealed. The rules of everyday life
may to a certain degree be transgressed. When
visitors come to a house,they have to have a subject ready and be inventive and creative. They might offer seeds for apple dumplings. Indeed!
The seeds must be sown at the end of September to have reached their proper size for Christmas! You will even see sample dumplings as a
»proof«. Others, for example, are having a great time demonstrating an eternity machine they have »invented«. The hosts are as important players to the game as those disguised and their pranks. To consume
the drinks offered without removing their masks, the dressed-up visitors bring along straws. And quite a number of drinks are consumed in the
course of the evening! Once the disguised people have left to call on
the next house, the hosts start guessing who hid behind the masks. The truly ambitious ones may come back in a different disguise.
This tradition of disguising is also known in Ærøskøbing and Marstal, but here it takes place at Shrovetide. While the adults do their pranks in
the evening, children »go mask« during the day. The two mask traditions at Twelfth Night and Shrovetide are very similar, but in Marstal, the
mask must fall and the identity of the disguised people must be revealed before they leave the house. If you are a newcomer to Ærø and you feel like
sharing in these pranks, please see the press for publicly announced masquerades.