The tradition of wassailing is thought to date back to Anglo-Saxon times. The word wassail comes from the old english 'waes tu hael' meaning good health. Wassailing traditionally takes place in early January, often on Twelfth Night (5th January or the old Twelfth Night date of 17th January), although has been recorded as being held on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve in some locations. Toast dipped in the wassail brew would be hung in apple trees as an offering, a wassail song would be sung and a toast drunk to the trees of the wassail brew and guns were fired to scare evil spirits. See http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/Notes_On_Carols/wassailing.htm for more information on wassailing customs.
We invited friends to join us for a wassail ceremony in our allotment, as a way to celebrate the New Year. We held a short simple druidic ceremony standing in a circle to honour the spirits of place and the elements and to call in inspiration and blessing by singing Awen together. We spent a few minutes in meditation about our personal year gone and year to come then gathered round and sang our Wassail song to two of our apple trees. The version we sing is a slightly adapted form of a traditional Wassail song.
We wassail thee old apple tree and hoping though wilt bear,
The Lord alone knows where we'll be to make merry another year,
So bear well and blow well and merry let us be,
Let everyone drink up their cup, here's a health to the old apple tree
We sang the song three times, then banged drums, shook rattles and blew horns to make a noise and shouted Wassail! three times loudly. We then passed a drinking horn of wassail brew for everyone to make their own blessings and dedications. After the ceremony we returned to our house to partake of homemade vegetable soup, sourdough bread and apple cake. We have done this for several years now, it is an excellent way to celebrate the New Year.
There are a couple of public wassailing ceremonies coming up in the Warwickshire area you could attend if this post has inspired you to have a go at this custom.
Brandon Marsh nature centre is having a wassailing event on Sunday 11th January 11-2.30 with performances by local Morris sides, crafts & refreshments for sale - see http://www.warwickshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/events/2015/01/11/wassailing?instance=0 for more details.
Plum Jerkum are hosting the annual Long Itchington wassail on Saturday 17th January from 11am, see http://www.plumjerkum.co.uk/4.html for details.
Wassail brew on the fire in our allotment
Blessing one of our apple trees for the coming year
Wassail! a blessing on our young Wyken Pippin tree and my future herb bed
Offerings of toast and wassail brew were made
Home-made vegetable soup
Sourdough bread made by my husband
Cut and come again apple cake
Warming vegetable soup - for 4
This is my own recipe.
200g chopped onion
100g chopped leeks
200g carrots chopped into rounds
250g parsnips chopped into chunks
200g potatoes chopped into chunks
180g celery chopped including leaves
100g mushrooms chopped into chunks
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
Approx 2cm cube root ginger finely chopped
25g vegetable bouillon powder
4 teaspoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Saute the onion on a medium heat till softened.
- Add the leeks, carrots, parsnips, potatotes, celery, mushroom, garlic & ginger in that order.
- Saute the vegetables till softened.
- Add the stock powder & bayleaf.
- Add water to desired consistency.
- Bring to boil and simmer until vegetables tender but not disintegrated.
- Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Serve with fresh bread.
This soup is great for after being out for a winter walk or if you have a cold. The onions, garlic, ginger, pepper & vegetables all have fortifying and healing properties helping strengthen your system and fight off infection.
Cut and come again apple cake with cinnamon sugar - for 12
Recipe from the Grown in Britain Cookbook https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21039210-grown-in-britain-cookbook?from_search=true
115g butter diced plus extra for greasing cake tin
200g plain flour
3 large cooking apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
250g caster sugar
6 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoon single cream
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Grease a large baking tin about 24x20x5cm.
- Core and slice the apples into thick slices, put in bowl of water with the lemon juice added to prevent browning.
- Whisk the eggs and 225g of the sugar until thick and pale and the whisk leaves a trail when lifted out of the mixture.
- Put the butter, milk and cream in a pan and heat until the butter melts, then bring to the boil. Stir into the egg mixture. Sift the flour and baking powder over the surface and fold in with a metal spoon. Pour into the prepared tin.
- Drain the apples and arrange in three rows over the batter. Mix the remaining sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and cooked through. Leave to cool in the tin then cut into squares.
Serve with cream or ice-cream.
For a vegan & gluten-free alternative you can make baked apples with fruit & nut stuffing by coring large cooking apples with an apple corer then filling the hole with dried fruit & nut mix and baking in a dish in the oven.
May all who read this have happiness and good health in the year to come. Wassail!