Wassailing at Broome Farm
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.
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.
tree is toasted with the words:
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: 04/03/13