|Wednesday What's New: Wassailing in the Orchard|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Wednesday, 14 December 2011|
In modern day times, wassail, the noun, refers to a hot, spiced punch that is served around Christmas time in many Germanic countries. Wassailing, the verb, refers to carolers and to an early horticultural practice. When I first read an article about wassailing in the fruit orchard I thought it was a joke so I thought I’d find out just what this wassailing in the apple orchard horticulture practice entailed.
Wassailing or singing and drinking to the health of the apple trees in an orchard dates back to medieval times is popular to this day in the West Country of England where it is used to awaken the trees and fight off evil spirits to ensure a bountiful harvest the following autumn. Wassailing takes place during the Twelfth Night celebration and in Sussex, England, wassailing is known as 'howling the trees'.
Neighbors gather to drink cider and toast the health of the apple trees, sprinkle cider at the roots, and dance merrily around the trees. Guns were often fired to scare away the spirits. After performing the ceremony, neighbors move from home to home in the village singing their wassailing songs.
Wassailing however, wasn’t always such innocent fun according to this entry from Wikipedia: In early New England wassailing was associated with rowdy bands of young men who would enter the homes of wealthy neighbors and demand free food and drink. If the householder refused, he was usually cursed, and occasionally his house was vandalized. The example of the exchange is seen in their demand for "figgy pudding" and "good cheer", i.e., the wassail beverage, without which the wassailers in the song will not leave, "we won't go until we've got some."