Well all go a wassailing

If you want a good apple harvest in 2013, find a wassailing ceremony near you – or perform your own!

Gardeners of old would once have taken part in apple wassailing ceremonies to attract a good harvest in the year to come.  And Ryton Gardens in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Coventry is holding one on 20 January – just to make sure!

The ceremony originated many hundreds of years ago to wake the trees and frighten away evil spirits.  It comes from the original phrase ‘waes hael’, meaning ‘to be in good health’.

The apple wassail was considered the first business meeting of the year and was often held on Twelfth Night.

In some traditions the wassail queen would be hoisted into the largest tree, putting cider-soaked toast in the branches for the tree spirits.  Other revellers would be in the orchard below banging their pots, pans and kettles and blowing their whistles to wake the sleeping tree spirit.

A wassailing song would be sung as the wassail drink was poured into the tree roots or drunk.

Nowadays the tradition is maintained, partly to uphold the ways of rural life, as well as for giving thanks for orchards and nature.

Ryton Gardens’ ceremony will include Morris Dancers.  To read about the event, go to http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/events/show_event.php?id=866

Author: Robert Smith

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