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Wassailing



The Tradition

Wassailing is an "age-old" tradition which dates back into antiquity - how far is not known. The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon words used as a toast "waes hael" meaning "be of good health", but the tradition could well pre-date Saxon England.

Since medieval times, wassailing has been carried out on Twelth night, or twelve days after Christmas.

In some communities, the tradition was that the locals went from door to door of their richer neighbours, and sang a song wishing them good health and prosperity for the coming year, in exchange for which they were given food and drink. If this was not forthcoming, a trick was often played on the miscreants, often involving ploughing up their garden.

Apple tree wassailing takes place in the apple tree growing regions of England. The purpose of this was to "wake up" the trees at the start of the year, to encourage the sap to start flowing, and to appease the spirit of the tree thus creating a good grop of fruit.

Recent Years

Since 2009 Lichfield Morris Men and Armitage Mummers, along with their friends Beggars' Oak Clog Dancers, have held a traditional wassailing ceremony at Staffordshire Wildlife Trust's orchard at their Wolseley Centre headquarters. Each year this event has grown more popular, the 2012 event being attended by about 300 people.

The assembled crowd were treated to tales of wassailing from the past, and joined in singing some traditional wassail songs, as well as being entertained by dances from the two morris teams. Then everyone processed to the orchard and sang to the trees and hung pieces of toast on the branches, making a great deal of noise to waken the spirits of the trees. Afterwards, back at the centre, the traditional Armitage Mummers play was performed to round off the afternoon.

Wassailing

Wassailing

Wassailing

In November 2011 a similar event was held at Elford Walled Garden. This event sarted with a procession to the orchard where the singing took place, and the dancing and mummers play later took place at The Crown in Elford. This too could become an annual event.

Wassailing