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2009 Wassail

Wassailing at Broome Farm

Owing to the weather, waterlogged ground, we do not plan a Wassail in 2014.

To see some photos of our 2009 Wassail

Some background information on Wassailing

The idea of a toast rounds off the whole culture of English drinking and is a custom that can be traced back to Anglo-Saxon times.  The earliest known toast stems from the Old English words ‘Waes Hael’ meaning literally ‘be whole’ or more simply ‘good health’.

The name, a Wassail cup, derives from the Tudor custom of passing round a communal cup at Christmas time to the cries of ‘Waes Hael’.  Over time the contents of the cup became known as Wassail.  Since wassail was generally brewed for Christmas and the New Year it was usual for the concoction to be served in the form of a sweet and highly spiced punch.

The words for the toast became used, as they did for the bowl and its contents, as the name for the custom of Wassailing.  In its earliest form wassailing started as a tradition where people visited neighbours houses to sing and to present the wassail cup in return for small gifts, usually on 12th night in early January. 

A master of ceremonies, known as the Butler, who traditionally blacked his face in disguise was often appointed to lead the festivities.


By the end of the 17th century cider and cider making had become part of the fabric of English rural life and a cider allowance became part of the farm workers wage.  The cider house, or Pound House, in which the cider was made and stored became the focal point of the farm.  The usual allowance was 2 quarts a day for a man and 1 quart for a boy.

Wassailing the cider orchards became one of the most important events of the farming year since it was widely regarded as essential if disaster was not to befall the precious crop. 


The tree is toasted with the words:
“Here’s to thee, old apple tree,
Whenst thou mayst bud
and whenst thou mayst blow
And whenst thou mayst bear apples enow! 
Hats full!  Caps full! 
Bushel, Bushel, sacks full!
 And my pockets full too!



It was customary to hoist a small boy, known as TomTit, into the biggest tree to leave pieces of cider soaked toast for the birds – more recently toast is simply hung in the tree. 

 It is also customary to leave a few small apples in the tree for the pixies and to douse the tree with cider.   

The wassail concludes with a lot of noise such as firing guns into the tree and banging on pots and pans to ward off bad spirits from the orchard and encourage the good spirits to provide a bountiful crop for the following year.

Last modified: 03/07/14