Wassailing

Where: Countrywide but especially in orchard areas
When: Late December to mid-January
Time: Evening (times vary)

 

Wassailing is a traditional luck-bringing custom associated with apple orchards dating back at least a few hundred years; the word has its origins in the Old English toast “waes hael” meaning Good Health. Revivals are particularly common in cider producing areas such as the West Country and Herefordshire and are usually in mid-January but can take place as early as the run-up to Christmas. Expect singing, morris dancing, cider offerings to the trees (and in some cases pieces of toast), beating the branches and lots of noise including firing shotguns into the trees to wake them up. There are a few traditional carols associated with wassailing and if you’re lucky a wassail bowl will be passed around containing a warming drink. Some wassailing ceremonies are listed separately in the tables as they have either a long tradition or a unique aspect to them. In Herefordshire you may see the Burning of the Bush and Herefordshire lanterns (the Much Marcle Wassail at Westons Cider, organised by Silurian Morrismen usually has these – it’s on a Saturday near 6th January at 6.30- see link below)

Helpful Hints

Many wassailing events are associated with Morris Dancing sides. To find one near you, click here  http://www.morrisfed.org.uk/

and here : http://www.themorrisring.org/

and for Silurian Morris click here : http://www.silurianmorris.org.uk/

Also a few festivals and notable events are listed in the calendar tables for January and December but these are by no means exhaustive – with over 200 wassailing events taking place annually we can’t list all of them here!

Photo by Tracey P.