Issue 97 is out now
Melissa Corkhill

By Melissa Corkhill

17th January 2009

Traditionally on Old Twelfth Night, 17th January, people would wassail the apple trees, to encourage a good crop. The word comes from the Anglo Saxon "waes hail" meaning to be healthy. Carrying jugs of apple juice or cider and horns villagers would walk to the local orchard in search of the largest tree.

Melissa Corkhill

By Melissa Corkhill

17th January 2009

Melissa Corkhill

By Melissa Corkhill

17th January 2009

The juice or cider was poured on the roots and bread soaked in cider hung from the branches for the robins (considered to be guardian spirits of the apple tree). A toast would be sung to the trees, such as the Wassailing Song. Dancing round the trunk of the trunk and horn blowing would lead to much merriment and rowdiness.

Today there are a growing number of community orchards, some of which are organising events to celebrate the old custom of wassailing. In Cornwall, revellers at Trelissick Gardens, Feock, Truro are welcomed to help scare away evil spirits by making as much noise as possible.

“Dancing round the trunk of the trunk and horn blowing would lead to much merriment and rowdiness.”

Morris dancers. mulled cider and storytelling are promised in Stoke Gabriel, Devon, where the lantern procession starts at 5:30pm and leads to the village orchard for an ancient ceremony. In Somerset there is a whole host of events taking place tomorrow – In Batheaston, Bath, the Walcot State Choir will lead the Community Orchard Wassail in decorating the apple trees, Glastonbury Rural Life Museum is holding an evening of dancing and wassailing and Avon Wildlife Trust are organising an orchestra of sculptural sounds using donated tools, inviting attendees to bring along old redundant tools to be given a second life. On 1st February, those who missed out can stride along to Boiling Wells City Farm in Bristol for rag morris dancers, storytelling, craft workshops and much merriment.

The Chepstow Wassail and Mari Lwyd event includes singing, dancing and blessing of an apple tree. The Mari Lwyd (Grey Mare) is an ancient Welsh custom, similar to Scotland’s ‘first footing’. Afterwards a ceilidh is planned at The Drill Hall, Chepstow.

So, much merriment to be had in many different locations. Let us know of any other similar events taking place this weekend.

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