The Grand March
Perhaps the oldest of the traditions still observed at the Twelfth Night Masque, the ritual of the Grand March was derived from one of the first institutions of the event - the Twelfth Night Cake. Slices of a massive cake that had been baked with a pea and bean inside were distributed to all the guests of the party. Those that received the pea or the bean in their slice were crowned king and queen of the festivities (It’s unclear as to whether the gender of the crowned monarchs mattered). Over time, the ritual of the cake transformed into a more democratic method of choosing the winners: A processional march during which each guest's costume is seen by both judges and fellow guests.
The Grand March had originally commenced at midnight, after which it had become customary for the guests to remove their masks. The masquerade, however, would continue for hours; often extending well into the morning.
The Grand March no longer waits for midnight, as that hour of the evening is now reserved for the Midnight March of the Committee of Twelve. Instead, the Grand March now serves as the ceremonial begining of the Twelfth Night Masque. This procession of all guests is initiated when the Grand Vizier welcomes all into the ballroom and the festivites begin in grand fashion.
During the Grand March, groups are welcome to select their own music and often incorporate props and choreographed routines or even short skits into their entrance to bemuse the judges and their fellow guests.
It is also customary to "encourage" the judges with gifts (ahem, um - bribes) in hopes they may favor your clever efforts above all others.
Judges are appointed each year by the Committee of Twelve, and are traditionally comprised of tenured guests of the Twelfth Night Masque. Catagories for the costumes had at one time been the same each year: Political, Artistic, Cultural, Athletic, Scientific. In later years, and continuing in current years, the Committee of Twelve and the sitting judges create new categories relevant to the current year's theme.
Prizes are awarded at the judges' descretion each year to numberous guests that are deemed worthy for their costume's creative and clever merit. Though the categories change each year, "most-irreverant" and "the horse's ass" are awarded every year and are of the most coveted and prideful honors bestowed upon a Twelfth Night guest.