Wednesday, 17 January 2018

17th January Old Twelfth Night.....................

.......................... and wassailing the apple trees  

Old Apple Tree, we Wassail thee
and hope that thou will bear
Hats full, caps full ,three-bushel bags full 
and a little heap under the stair.
 Hip Hip Hooray 

A few  centuries ago apples were a very important crop, they made cider and at a time when water wasn't safe to drink cider and beer were the drinks of the masses. Farm workers would be paid partly in cider or beer and some varieties could be kept stored for months. A poor harvest was a disaster.
Wassailing ( Wassail comes from the Anglo Saxon waes haeil  = Good Health)  was an ancient custom in cider producing areas although villages in many parts of the country had their own versions of the ceremony. Pieces of cider-soaked toast were hung on the oldest or largest trees in the orchard, wassail songs were sung, cider was poured onto the roots of the trees. Finally shots would be fired through the branches and pots and pans banged together to ward off the evil spirits.

We went out and wassailed the trees at the smallholding especially after the only year when the big old Bramley Apple failed to set a single fruit.Think it worked as it never failed again.

I haven't got any cider but do have a small carton of apple juice in the cupboard - hope that will suffice to appease those spirits.

Why Old Twelfth Night? This is all to do with the change from Julian to Gregorian calendar in 1752  when 11  days were lost. The 2nd of September was followed immediately by the 14th. A lot of people refused to use this new calendar, especially country people.

Last year was a fair year for apples but a bad year for storing them. Hopefully 2018 will be better.

Stand fast,bear well top,
Pray God send us a howling crop.
Every twig, apples big,
Every bough, apples enow,
Hatsfull, capsfull, quarter sacks full! 

Two more books from my shelves. On the left a little gem of a book - Christmas present from my wish list and on the right a book that I've had for ages - full of useful information.

Weather forecast for today is windy and cold, maybe even snowy....... think of me out there tonight............ dancing round the apple trees!

Back soon


  1. We had a Wassail last weekend in our community Orchard in the village. A torchlit procession of Morris men, musicians, choir and villagers to the orchard then singing, pouring of cider on the tree roots, wassail bowl, singing and volley of shots. A splendid village activity to ensure another good crop.

  2. I KNEW there was a reason why I didn't take down my Christmas tree on the 6th. Absolutely nothing to do with me being lazy, of course!
    Didn't Rick Stein join in some Wassailing as you describe and it was snowing as they filmed?
    J x

  3. In Sussex it's known as howling. We wassail bees too!

  4. No snow here along the coast in Hampshire, we always went to the Wassail in the village where I grew up in Somerset, most important part of the calendar year, hope you did not get too cold.

  5. Have fun this evening...I've wassailed alone before...not a single fruit tree here yet so I'll think of you out cavorting instead! x

  6. Ooh I'm considering buying the almanac. I saw it in my GYO magazine and thought it looked great.

  7. We wassailed our trees when I was a child, last years crop was a hit and miss affair so perhaps I ought to get out there tonight. As long as it isn't snowing.

  8. I know they hold this 'seasonal ritual' in parts of Tasmania (The Apple Isle) and I vaguely remember news reports from a place in New South Wales but it wouldn't be a common occurrence down here

  9. We’re on our second day f being snowed in up here in the Central Belt of Scotland so I’ll just imagine you all wassailing. Catriona

  10. Hope Col is doing better, and that you don't get snow!

  11. A great reminder, thank you. I have some cider in the pantry; our Bramley apple tree could do with a little encouragement so tonight I'll be out there singing and clattering, anointing the tree and hoping to appease the you think it will work for the quince trees, too? Perhaps I should try it on one of them, see if it makes any difference to the crop, we only got two tiny ones last year.

  12. Lots of wassailing goes on here in Somerset....not that we've ever done it! (too blooming cold for a start).

  13. That was an interesting read. I could do with reverting back to the Julian calendar - an extra 11 days a year sounds good. Hope Col is still holding his own and that the weather isn't preventing you from visiting. xx

  14. If it is too cold or snowing I think I might just put an apple and a branch from an apple tree in the middle of my kitchen floor and do my dancing there.

    God bless.

  15. The thought of you wassailing round your apple trees made me smile ... I hope it works. Last year was definitely the poorest year for apples for a few years. I should have been out quoting rhymes and giving ours a daub with cider 😊

  16. I do like the look of the book you had for Christmas. I find books about the seasons and celebrations fascinating.
    Lisa x