Saturday, 16 January 2010


I'm off out to dinner this evening. To be precise, a three course meal with music provided by the excellent Ebor Singers. To quote directly from the invitation...

"if you wish to celebrate the end of Christmas in style, join us for our Wassail Dinner 2010, on Saturday 16 January at the Merchant Taylors Hall, for a 3-course meal, music, readings, and our own Mummers Play - if you think you've seen the choir perform, think again!"

I've been to these before, and it's always been a splendid evening's entertainment with a good meal provided too!

For those of you unfamiliar with Wassailing traditions in this country, any Google search should soon put that right. Here's an excerpt from a site I came across.


Wassailing has been associated with Christmas and New Year as far back as the 1400s. It was a way of passing on good wishes among family and friends.

What is Wassail?

Wassail is an ale-based drink seasoned with spices and honey. It was served from huge bowls, often made of silver or pewter. The Wassail bowl would be passed around with the greeting, 'Wassail'.

There are three main ways of wassailing.

The filling of a common bowl or cup often referred to as a 'Loving Cup' and passing it around a room to be shared.

Taking a bowl of Wassail around houses

A celebration of the apple harvest and the blessing of the fruit or trees.

Where does the name Wassail come from?

Wassail gets its name from the Old English term "waes hael" meaning "be well" It was a Saxon custom that, at the start of each year, the lord of the manor would shout 'waes hael'. The assembled crowd would reply 'drinc hael' meaning 'drink and be healthy'.

As time went on, the tradition was carried on by people going from door to door, bearing good wishes and a wassail bowl of hot, spiced ale. In return people in the houses gave them drink, money and Christmas fare (special foods eaten during Christmas time e.g. mince pies) and they believed they would receive good luck for the year to come.

What was in the Wassail?

The contents of the bowl varied in different parts of the country, but a popular one was known as 'lambs wool'. It consisted of hot ale, roasted crab apples, sugar, spices, eggs, and cream served with little pieces of toast. It was the toast floating on the top that made it look like lamb's wool.

A Wassailing Carol

One of the most popular Wassailing Carols went like this:

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wassailing,
So fair to be seen:
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too,
And God bless you and send you,
A happy New Year,
And God send you,
A happy new year.

There's more, all from this site which you can explore at your own leisure, but I think this gives you a rough idea of what the evening will be about! Should be great fun, but I can't be too late back because I'm going over to Gtr Manchester tomorrow to celebrate Theophany (incidentally the traditional date of celebrating "Wassail" in the Old English Calendar!) with my Ukrainian friends now that the weather's improved.

Until next time...

Waes hael!

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