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Time to Wassail

Celebrate the ancient tradition this January

 

With 73% of the nation recognising they don’t know their neighbours very well, and less than half engaging in community activities, why not get involved in wassailing, an age old orcharding practice which dates back to the Pagan times.

So, what is wassailing?

The word ‘wassail’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon phrase ‘waes hael’ which means ‘good health’.

The practice of wassailling dates back to Pagan times. It refers to the ancient custom of local communities visiting orchards, reciting incantations and singing to the trees to promote a good harvest for the coming year.

What happens at a wassail?

For some: it starts with gathering and the crowing of a wassail King or Queen who leads a parade to a tree, normally the oldest in the orchard. A piece of toast is then dipped into some mulled cider or apple juice (held in a large bowl called a wassail bowl).

More mulled cider or juice is then poured round the base of the tree, and evil spirits are scared scared away by the group, who make loud noises by banging of drums and sticks and singing. Then the tree is serenaded by the crowd.

Example wassail tunes for you to try:

Wassail 1:

Here’s to thee, old apple tree,

Whence thou mayst bud

And whence thou mayst blow!

And whence thou mayst bear apples enow!

Hats full! Caps full!

Bushel—bushel—sacks full,

And my pockets full too! Huzza!

 

Wassail 2:

Huzza, Huzza, in our good town

The bread shall be white, and the liquor be brown

So here my old fellow I drink to thee

And the very health of each other tree.

Well may ye blow, well may ye bear

 

Wassail 3:

Blossom and fruit both apple and pear.

So that every bough and every twbig

May bend with a burden both fair and big

May ye bear us and yield us fruit such a stors

That the bags and chambers and house run o’er.

 

Wassail 4:

Apple-tree, apple-tree,

Bear good fruit,

Or down with your top

And up with your root.

 

Wassail 5:

Here we come a wassailing

Among the leaves so green,

Here we come a wandering

So fair to be seen.

Love and joy come to you,

And to you your wassail too.

 

How can I run a community wassail?

Decide a date, time and venue for your wassail – usually a wassail happens sometime between 5th January and 17th If you don’t have an orchard that you can access, you coud hold a wassail anyway, somewhere like your town centre or community hall

  1. Appoint a wassail King and Queen to lead the event. If you can, create crowns for them from paper or flowers – these can be fun roles for children to fufil… don’t let the adults have all the fun.
  2. Find a suitable wassail song – or write your own! – if you can, print the words out for everyone or at least ensure your Wassail King & Queen have a copy
  3. Ensure you have a suitable wassail bowl, spiced juice and toast (you might want to use juice as it should be suitable for everybody who attends)
  4. You might want to invite local people, media or dignitaries to attend the event
  5. Capture pictures and video if you can – you can use these for your social media channels or, if they are good enough quality, for local newspapers and websites to run a piece of editorial about your event
  6. Tell us what you’re doing on Twitter:@HelpBritBloss and Facebook: facebook.com/HelpingBritainBlossom

 

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Why Orchards Orchards have played an important role in our communities for hundreds of years, providing a communal space for gatherings and celebrations. Find an Orchard Our ambition by 2017 is to help 100 communities to plant, care for and restore their own orchards. And to get things going, we're focusing on cities and towns in seven parts of the UK