Saturday, 15 January 2011


    It's that time of year again. Everyone else is sitting indoors grumbling about the weather or pelting along the motorway to the retail outlet centre but for a cidermaker it's time to head for the orchard, saw and shears in hand for a spot of pruning. And it's time to wassail your trees, if you are of a traditional bent.
    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!


  1. Perhaps if you were to raise a few glasses of cider first, then head out to visit the trees... it might inspire you to serenade those sleeping giants!
    Happy wassailing Jenny!

  2. I didn't know you were into pagan festivals Jenny. Wassailing is rooted in old Anglo-Saxon pagan celebrations and probably pre-dates Christianity in this country. I like cider very much but I would certainly not sing to trees and wish them good health, unless I'd too much cider inside me! Did you know that there are traditionally two kinds of wassail, one ishouse visiting and the other orchard visiting?

    Shirley Anne xxx

  3. Cuppe, surely.

    I thought we might need a wassail de nos jours, so I done wrote one.

    Come let us all a-gather round the fair apple tree
    We’re the Bogus But Bucolic Pursuits Society
    And we’ll caper in the orchards till the noggins be drained
    And a bloke with a beard and tankard sings a nasal refrain
    So put on your thermal undies and join our glad company
    Subject, of course, to clearance from the bold CRB

  4. I like that poem Dru

    Shirley Anne xxx

  5. Thank you, Shirley Anne!

    I share your misgivings at communal wassailing, Jenny, though I like the idea of having a personal one. I got mixed up in a Wiccan ceremony for Imbolc once, and felt just-ever-so-slightly embarrassed by the whole thing...

  6. Morning all, and thanks for your comments.

    That's brilliant Dru, gets folkies and ciderists to a T! It is embarrassing watching a bloke in a jester outfit jumping up and down, especially when you know he's not a Son of the Soil but an Audi-driving sales manager.

    Wasailing, a pagan tradition, I can't disagree there Shirley Anne. Fortunately I am of a practical bent and place my faith in tending for our trees rather than hoisting folksy young maidens into their branches. If I raise a glass to their health is is to them as very real living organisms. I suspect there are many who raise a glass to the health of racehorses in a similar way.

    And yes, I would raise more than a few glasses, but sadly my medication precludes too much of that.

  7. A lovely post...just a lovely post.

    Calie xxx

  8. Makes me think of that bloke from River Cottage. I am sure he did a bit of Wassailing on one of his programmes on TV. Looked like he had had a good few

    There was something else about Wassailing in the spectator .....