Saturday, 3 January 2015

New Year's Day Wassail - a blessing on the land, a blessing on our lives

The first post of my new blog is about the Wassail Ceremony held by husband Barry and I on New Year's Day at our allotment in Coventry.   We have done this for several years inspired by the custom of wassailing, which we have adapted for our own ceremony with like-minded friends.

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 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. 

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 for more details.

Plum Jerkum are hosting the annual Long Itchington wassail on Saturday 17th January from 11am, see 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
1 bayleaf
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

115g butter diced plus extra for greasing cake tin
200g plain flour
3 large cooking apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 eggs
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!


  1. Lovely Anne! I do love apple cake. I look forward to reading the next one! xx

  2. Bright Blessings from the Thames Valley my dears!
    How serendipitous that I have been trying Wassailing recipes for apple juice and cider this year to celebrate finding a lovely old print of The Wassail by CR Mackintosh. ;o)

  3. This is a wonderful blog Anne Thank You :)
    Trying the Veg soup recipe tomorrow. Many Blessings on both of you lots of love Sandie xxxx

  4. Enjoy the veg soup, let me know what you think xxx

    1. The veg soup is delicious I have made it a couple of times now and put a couple of pots in the freezer. Needless to say the pots in the freezer came out and were enjoyed within a couple of weeks! Thanks Anne xxxx

  5. The apple cake looks delicious Anne