Wassaling is a January tradition from the southwestern counties of the UK that has been revived in recent years. A simple toast to the health of your trees in the coming year, it usually involves going to the orchard and singing wassailing songs at the trees, with assorted other traditions involving offerings of cider, hoisting a wassailing queen into the branches, and of course much drinking of cider.
I have to admit a touch of embarrassment at the thought of singing at our trees in public. So my wassail will be a much more private affair. If trees are capable of appreciating such things, they should know I take care of them as I barrow in loads of manure to nourish them and cut out their diseased or dead wood, without my having to serenade them with my tuneless wailing. I might raise a glass of cider to them, but I'm afraid it won't be the traditional "clayen cup". Or should that be "cuppe"? I can't decide.
There is a danger when reviving traditions to gather together every known tradition around an event and produce an entirely false super-tradition laden with traditional elements that while traditional in their own regions might be a little less traditional taken all together. You only have to look at the modern "traditions" surrounding weddings to see very good examples. I therefore can't decide whether wassailing is an over-revived tradition. People certainly seem to have a lot of fun at it though and anything that raises the profile of craft cider has to be a good thing.
So here's a modern take on reviving other people's traditions, the cut-and-paste wassail. I won't be singing this to our trees this weekend, but it's quite likely people will be doing so elsewhere!
Here's to thee, old apple tree, That blooms well, bears well. Hats full, caps full, Three bushel bags full, An' all under one tree. Hurrah! Hurrah!