Wassailing can fall in to two categories according to good ol’ Wiki. House to house or the orchard.
House to House wassailing seems to me to be carol singing and I have never called that wassailing.
Wassailing likely pre dates the Normans of 1066 – just what did those old Frenchies know about such things, pickled in red wine as they were? No this is something altogether more Germanic.
It was the Anglo-Saxon toast Wæs þu hæl, meaning “be thou hale” or “be in good health”, which began the tradition, particularly in the apple growing areas in the West Country, who would bring in the new year with a wish for a good apple harvest – for the cider.
Sadly, the house we live in now has a pretty uninspiring garden, but our last house (and my favourite by far) had a little orchard nestled in the far corner, complete with various types of plum and apple trees. It even had a defunct pig sty slumped unused slap bang in the middle of it – obviously in days gone by, our old garden would have seen the house pig snaffling up the windfalls – I love the picture that conjurs up, of halcyon days gone by. And it was there that our family wassailing would begin.
The key is a hearty supply of hot spiced cider – various recipes abound – and take yourselves off out to the orchard to wish in the new year and shout toasts to a plentiful fruit harvest in the year to come. It is also traditional to leave the last apple hanging on the tree as a mark of respect to the Gods- and any left over cider can be splashed around the base of the trees as a libation.
I’ve tried all sorts of recipes – there are loads if you just Google for them – but I’m interested to see, many are suitable for the slow crockpot – which as a happy coincidence, was my Christmas present for DH this year.
Waes pu hael to you all – and to a wonderful 2016