Apologies as I've probably mentioned this nearly every year (shortage of ideas for blog posts every January!)
On Twelfth night in the past there were two distinct types of Wassailing. The first was moving door to door around the village singing and carrying a wassailing bowl and the second was a ceremony taking place in orchards, blessing the trees for a good crop next year.
Wassail (From the Norse Waes Hael") means "be healthy" and as farm workers were often paid in cider during the harvest it was important the trees were healthy and produced plenty of fruit......... at one time there were 400 varieties of cider apples and an orchard on every farm with apple trees in every cottage garden.
Around the village they would sing this old traditional song which I've always known, from somewhere...primary school perhaps
And in the orchards this poem would be chanted while drums were banged, rifles fired through the tree branches, bread soaked in cider laid on the branches of the oldest tree and cider poured on the roots.
And hoping thou will bear
For the Lord doth know where we shall be
‘Til apples come another year
So merry let us be
Let every man take off his hat
And shout to the old apple tree
And hoping thou will bear
Hats full, caps full, three bushel bags full
And a little heap under the stair
Wassailing the apple trees is still happening in parts of the country - specially in the cider orchards of Somerset and Herefordshire and now Morris Dancing sides or Community Orchard Groups have got the tradition re-started in many places. I only know of one in Suffolk, at a country pub with the Old Glory Molly Dancers performing, but a bit too far away for a visit.
This is a book I found a few years ago at a boot sale written by the same people as my Ogham Tree Alphabet book. It's a fascinating look back at traditions - old and new.
We have a local apple orchard here in central NJ which will be wassailing the apple trees this weekend. Local party.ReplyDelete
Correction, last Sunday in January this year.Delete
So pleased to hear a tradition carrying on so far awayDelete
In a book I have it starts by saying - If anyone greets you with a hearty 'Wassail!', the correct way to reply is the equally hearty 'Drinkhail!' 'Wassail' is a toast and is the Anglo-Saxon for 'Be of good health'. Then it describes pretty much what you have written wth a different song. At the end it says that Carhampton in Somerset still practice the custom on 17th January which is the date of the old Twelfth Night before Britain changed from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1752. It's quite refreshing that some old customs are still going on, isn't it?ReplyDelete
I love to hear about them - wish there was something locallyDelete
I remember a famous chef (was it Rick Stein? I don't think it was Hugh F W) going wassailing with a local group. It was so interesting.ReplyDelete
Yes, I remember that programme too - but can't recall which chef it was either.Delete
No idea, but I'd guess Hugh as he lived in Dorset and now Devon and RS is a bit too posh for gallivanting in orchards but I might be wrong!Delete
Wassailing is one of my annual traditions. I even have one last bottle of cider made from my own apples to wassail the apple trees. I always have beautiful blossom, plenty of fruit setting, and then the squirrels eat every last walnut-sized fruit from the three apple trees. But, this winter season they have ignored the red sentinel crab apples (which are now feeding the birds) so I am hoping that two years of tummy ache has taught the squirrels a lesson. I can but hope! Sarah in SussexReplyDelete
We made apple juice but not cider a few times from our apples at the smallholding.Delete
I usually use apple juice nowadays as I keep some small cartons in for grandchildren
Growing up in rural Somerset, this was part of our traditions, I loved going and watching, so much fun.ReplyDelete
What lovely memoriesDelete
How quickly it is come around again. Epiphany already, and for those who haven't already done so, the traditional day to take the decorations down.ReplyDelete
How do the weeks fly by so quickly?Delete
Hoping to go wassailing at Rosemoor this year on the 15th so closer to Old Twelfth Night. xReplyDelete
So good you have somewhere to take part. Nothing happening around here - hardly any orchards nowDelete
Interesting Sue that I know the tune to this very well and I don't know how or why because I never remember going wassailing.ReplyDelete
That's exactly the same - how do I know it and the tune? surely not as a hymn?Delete
I haven't done any wassailing, but I have just turned all the very wrinkly apples from my fridge into a couple of apple tarts ... and very tasty they were too.ReplyDelete
I'll be out there pouring apple juice on my new trees and hoping for no late frostsDelete
It's always lovely to hear about these old traditions. Some friends of ours had an applefest last October, they've got lots of young apple trees that had good crops. Apples are such a mainstay it feels like they deserve being celebrated.ReplyDelete
Alison in Wales x
My trees are all so new I'm not expecting many apples this year but ever hopefulDelete
I know that song too as it was in the Christmas songs book I got as a young piano student years ago (and still have). I never knew what wassail meant but we sang it anyway! Thanks for the info, Sue!ReplyDelete
I visit a few local orchards but do not believe they are following a wassailing tradition. I will ask about it the next time I visit.ReplyDelete
I've heard of Wassailing (door to door) but never to the apples. I love that idea and I especially love that it is still done today. What a beautiful custom.ReplyDelete
Lovely post. My MIL always has wassail at Christmas - well, what she calls wassail. It is really tasty. Not sure we'd take it door to door though.ReplyDelete
Won't be able to see the moon here. The skies are cloudy though we're - fingers crossed - forecast some sunshine for the weekend!
Have a good weekend.
Enjoy your Wassailing.ReplyDelete
That's cool about the trees. I thought it was just people sharing a drink together.ReplyDelete