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Wassail!

Here's a lovely idea for a winter wedding theme if you're planning to wed shortly after Christmas. Wassail conjurs up ideas of bowls of apple cider punch, rich colours, bare apple boughs and foraged greenery for decoration, ribbons, wedding tipis with warm fires and candle light, all surrounded by the people you love. What a theme...

Wassailing is an ancient tradition of blessing apple trees at Twelfth Night and asking the spirit of the tree for a bountiful harvest of fruit the following autumn. Some wassailers adhere to the Gregorian calendar and mark Twelfth Night on 6th January, whereas others adhere to the older Julian calendar and leave their wassails until the 17th January, a good time to celebrate a wedding too!

Wassail is an Anglo-Saxon word and is thought to mean ‘Be In Good Health’. Whilst there is a tradition of wassailing neighbours with songs and good wishes at yuletide (similar to the modern tradition of carolling), apple trees had to wait until Twelfth Night, a time when the world is turned upside down, the Lord of Misrule reigns for a day, and the spirits draw close, including those of trees.

People who cared for an apple tree - and the tradition is still strong in the cider growing areas of England and the marches of Wales - set out with gifts of hot cakes and cider as an offering to the spirit of the tree. Usually, a cider soaked cake was hoisted high and left in the fork of a branch, with more cider splashed on the earth over the roots.

In order to drive away any malignant influence, people might shout or bang pan lids together, and some even fire shotguns into the air. Then, all present sing the wassailing song, asking for a good crop of apples the following autumn. If you want to wassail your own apple tree (or, with amendment to the words, any other sort of fruiting tree, or even your own union) here are some traditional words to use.

Published: 11-01-2013

Published By: Rosie

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