Wassailing is an old English custom dating back to the time of the Anglo Saxons. The word ‘wassail‘ comes from the Anglo-Saxon phrase ‘waes hael’, which means ‘good health’. It usually involves sharing a drink made from warmed cider, wine or ale blended with spices, honey and sometimes egg all served in one huge bowl.
It was celebrated on New Years Eve and Twelfth Night (6th January or on 17 January ‘old twelvey’ if using the old Julian Calender) and took two forms. The more familiar form is going from house to house singing in exchange for wassail – you’ll probably recognise this today as Christmas carolling. The other, which is still practiced today on Old Twelfth Night in apple and cider producing regions of Somerset, Herefordshire, Devon and Kent is wassailing the fruit trees.
Wassailing the fruit trees is to drink to the health of the fruit trees and to encourage a good crop. Toast dipped in the wassail would be placed on branches and the roots of trees would be sprinkled with wassail.
This year we will be wassailing the fruit trees on Old Twelvey – if you’re around come and share the wassail and helps us drink to the health of our fruit trees.
You can read more about this tradition here: http://resources.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/xmas/wassail.htm and here: http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Wassailing/