To roam the neighborhood singing Christmas carols, asking for a drink of wassail in return. Wassailers bring their own wassail bowls, which their hosts fill with spiced ale, wine, rum or cider. In short, a pub crawl around your own block.

Also, a kind of traditional song to be sung when wassailing, most of which are also about wassailing. A wassail typically praises the host in advance of the ale, blessing the lord and lady of the house for their imminent generosity, and praying God to reward them with a prosperous new year. You really lay it on thick in a good wassail -- ideally, your host should be so embarrassed by your profuse blessings that they get you good and drunk, then send you off to inflict your merry (i.e., sloshed) singing upon the folks next door.

Examples of traditional wassails include:

Recipe for wassail to the best of my recollection



  1. Pour the Port into a big pot
  2. Heat the Port until it steams
  3. I think maybe you add the spices at some time, and maybe the sugar as well. I don't know. Use your imagination
  4. Add the Brandy or Cognac. Use the whole bottle for more of a kick
  5. Okay, here comes the fun part. Add the eggs. You must do this slowly or the eggs will cook. If this happens, don't worry, it just adds texture. And when people ask you what those little floaty things are that look like scrambled eggs, tell them they're flavor crystals or some shit. I don't know. Use your imagination
  6. I think you might want to put a cored, baked apple in there, for presentation, but I really recommend just adding another bottle of Port
  7. This shit is potent, maybe 180º, so have a good time trying to set it on fire. It tastes awful.

Well, that about wraps it up. Have a good time, but be careful. Nothing stinks worse than alcohol, apples, eggs and spices all going up in one huge Yuletide mushroom cloud.

This is an excellent wintertime hot drink, to be enjoyed in mugs around the fire. The recipe and its variations date back to medieval times, and this particular one keeps well in a crockpot or insulated container.



Put clove and allspice into a mesh bag or tea ball. Place all ingredients in a large pot and heat until the apples burst.

Yield: 1 gallon
Source: Standard
Use for: Yule

Pagan recipes

Somerset Apple Wassail

The Somerset Apple Wassail traditionally takes place every year on the 17th January, which happened to be the old Twelfth Night before the calendar was changed. A roving group of wassailers would go to an orchard and perform a ceremony in order to bless the apple trees, to ensure the health of the orchard and a good crop of apples in the year to come.

The wassail is prepared from mulled ale or cider, eggs, roasted apples and spices, and served in a large wassail bowl. Pieces of toasted bread are dipped into the brew - the origin of proposing a toast - and then placed in and under the tree while the bowl is passed round.

The wassail ceremony took place (and still does to this day) around the largest tree in the orchard, everyone having a fine time getting drunk, dancing and singing. Also at the ceremony an ash faggot (a tight bundle of green ash sticks) would be burned, which was also supposed to ensure a good supply of cider.

Many different wassailing songs can be found in literature. The one below is dated around 1805.

Huzza, Huzza, in our good town
The bread shall be white, and the liquor be brown
So here my old fellow I drink to thee
And the very health of each other tree.
Well may ye blow, well may ye bear
Blossom and fruit both apple and pear.
So that every bough and every twig
May bend with a burden both fair and big
May ye bear us and yield us fruit such a stors
That the bags and chambers and house run o'er.

TWELVE DEGREES OF INEBRIATION A month by month guide to getting drunk.

A wassail is a medieval cheer, a bit like a toast, usually to the good health of someone or something. It involves raising one’s glass/goblet/tankard, shouting “wassail!”, and then drinking the contents of said glass/goblet/tankard. Following is a brief description of twelve times per year* when it is traditionally appropriate/required to wassail.

January – Twelfth Night
Twelfth Night (also called Epiphany Eve), is the time for ‘Wassailing the Trees’. This salute is said to assure the triumph of Spring over Winter. Wassailing fruit trees in particular will bring a bountiful harvest. So the more wassailing, the greater the Spring.

FebruarySt Valentine’s Day
The time to celebrate love. At Valentine’s Day feasts, a wassail is performed at the High Table. There are then wassails to a large tankard (the Valentine Cup). This is drinking to the Spirit of Love, so the more wassailing, the greater the love.

Medieval Easter lasts for 120 days, and celebrates the triumph of Spring over Winter (which was assured by all that wassailing in January). This means seventeen weeks of feasting, festivals, and more importantly, seventeen weeks of wassailing. Each day of the celebration brings the obligation to wassail the miracle of the new day. So the more wassailing, the greater the triumph.

AprilAll Fool’s Day
All Fool’s Day is when the world is turned upside-down. Everything is topsy-turvy, which brings hilarity and merriment. The Lord of Misrule (usually the Court Jester) presides over the High Table, and all announcements are said backwards. Of course, this is made all the more hilarious after a few wassails. The more wassailing, the greater the merriment.

Mayday is said to be a rememberance of pagan rituals to force Spring to return to the world. There are many traditions observed including May horns, May whistles, May bells, the Maypole and the Queen of May. Each of these traditions present an opportunity to wassail the coming of Spring. (Again).

JuneMidsummer Eve
Midsummer is actually celebrated at the beginning of Summer. (I’m not sure why it’s called Midsummer – perhaps too much wassailing at Mayday). At a Midsummer feast, the usual welcome wassail is performed,then food is served. Then it is time to toast and rejoice in the cuckoo bird. (Again, there seems to be no explanation as to why, but who cares?) The rejoicing is, of course, much livlier after the wassailing of the cuckoo. The more wassails, the greater the cuckoo. (? I’m really lost on this one.)

JulySt Swithin’s Day
St. Swithin’s Day is about celebrating the Summer season. In England, if it rains on this day, it is said to predict rain for 40 days thereafter. This is important for two reasons: One, it will ensure that the season’s fruit will be the most lucsious and Two, it allows more time to be indoors wassailing Summer’s abundance of fruits and vegetables. The more wassailing, the greater the fruit.

AugustLammas Day
August is the month for bread. It is baked in different shapes and colours. Lammas means ‘Loaf Mass’ and the day offers thanks for a good harvest. A favourite Lammas Day drink is Lamb’s Wool which is cider, beer or wine with baked apples floating on top. Naturally, the more wassailing the greater the thanks for the Summer.

There are a number of stories about how this holiday originated. Most of them seem to be based around the eating, producing or selling of ginger. There is no ‘official’ wassailing session for Michaemas, however the day does mark the beginning of Michaelmas Fair, so it would seem appropriate to drink to the general good will of the season. The more wassailing, the greater the fair.

Halloween marks the end of the year on the pagan Celtic calendar. It is thought to be the time when supernatural beings are at their most powerful. Flames are believed to welcome good spirits and repel evil ones, so many candle are lit. This holiday draws on many traditions from other celebrations, so there is much wassailing to the spirits, the seasons and to love. The more wassailing, the greater the celebration.

NovemberSt Catherine’s Day
This holiday is all about Catherine Wheels. They can be in the form of a wagon wheel chandelier, a juggler twirling lit torches, circular dances or round cakes to name a few. Once again, Lamb’s Wool is the drink of choice, and many wassails are said for St Catherine who allegedly won an argument over 50 of the world’s most important scholars. The more wassailing, the more adulation for Cath.

Medieval Christmas is a 12 day celebration. During the feast, there are 3 wassails sung to the ‘Milly’ which is a box containing a statue of the Virgin and Child. And, as it is the time of twelves, the feast has at least 12 holiday foods, each guest receives 12 presents, there are 12 kisses for each celebrant, and there are 12 wassails for the good health of trees and people. The more wassailing, the greater the health.

A Word on Etiquette
After a lot of wassailing, it can become difficult to maintain an appropriate level of politeness, but at the very least, the inebriated should try to remember these wise words…
”Pick not your nose, nor that it be dropping with no pearls clear…. And always beware of thy hinder part from guns blasting.”

*These holidays originated in the Northern Hemisphere, therefore Spring begins in March, summer begins in June, etc, etc.


Medieval Holidays & Festivals
Madeleine Pelner Cosman
First published by Judy Piatkus (Publishers), Ltd. Of London 1984
Published by Bookcraft Ltd., Midsomer Norton 1996

The Yorkist Age
Paul Murray Kendall
First published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd. 1962
Published by Penguin Books, London 2001


(Alcoholic Beverage, Beer Version)
Serves 8-10

Heat the sherry and 1 bottle of beer but do NOT boil. Add sugar and spices and stir until dissolved. Add the rest of the beer and stir again. Let the wassail stand at room temperature for 2-3 hours. Pour into a punch bowl, garnish with lemon or baked apples, and serve in punch cups. More drinks at Everything Bartender.

Wassail has its origins in Yule, the ancient northern European solstice festival that predates Christmas and whence many Christmas traditions come. The name "wassail" derives from various Germanic toasts, such as the Anglo-Saxon wæs þu hæl or the Norse ves heill both meaning, roughly, "be in good health!"

The carol "Here we go a-wassailing" refers to either the practice of singing carols and receiving wassail in return, or (less frequently) serving wassail while singing carols.

Originally, wassail consisted of mulled beer or port or wine, flavoured with spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or ginger seem to be standard) and any available fruit (apples, typically) and heated. Over time, mulled cider replaced the beer, though beer wassail may certainly be found and, as the recipes here clearly indicate, various alcohol-based wassail recipes remain popular. As fruit juice became more readily-available year-round, juice (especially cranberry) was sometimes added for flavour.

Be creative. In the past, wassail was often served with bits of bread floating in it as well. Some of the recipes already posted here include eggs and sherry. As near as I can figure, if it's a "mulled heated beverage with stuff thrown in," it can be called wassail.

Father Time's Wassail started with a friend's recipe, and with the passing of years, altered slightly:


  • Two-thirds mulled cider OR mulled cider and port.
  • one-third cranberry with orange juice
  • cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, ginger, orange slices, dates, apples with incisions (don't go overboard here)

Alcoholic or non-alcoholic cider?

You can use either, and alcohol can be added later.

The kind with port would already be alcoholic.

Yes. Clearly it would. Now let me finish.


Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer.


Keep on low heat for about an hour before serving, stirring occasionally.


You may want to fish out the more obtrusive pieces of fruit, especially if you're serving to young'uns.

Serve as is or with the addition of alcohol. Port or rum work nicely. I do not strongly recommend port and rum, but I leave it up to you.

Wæs þu hæl!

Was"sail (?), n. [AS. wes hal (or an equivalent form in another dialect) be in health, which was the form of drinking a health. The form wes is imperative. See Was, and Whole.]


An ancient expression of good wishes on a festive occasion, especially in drinking to some one.

Geoffrey of Monmouth relates, on the authority of Walter Calenius, that this lady [Rowena], the daughter of Hengist, knelt down on the approach of the king, and, presenting him with a cup of wine, exclaimed, Lord king waes heil, that is, literally, Health be to you. N. Drake.


An occasion on which such good wishes are expressed in drinking; a drinking bout; a carouse.

"In merry wassail he . . . peals his loud song."

Sir W. Scott.

The king doth wake to-night and takes his rouse, Keeps wassail. Shak.

The victors abandoned themselves to feasting and wassail. Prescott.


The liquor used for a wassail; esp., a beverage formerly much used in England at Christmas and other festivals, made of ale (or wine) flavored with spices, sugar, toast, roasted apples, etc.; -- called also lamb's wool.

A jolly wassail bowl, A wassail of good ale. Old Song.


A festive or drinking song or glee.


Have you done your wassail! 'T is a handsome, drowsy ditty, I'll assure you. Beau. & Fl.


© Webster 1913.

Was"sail, a.

Of or pertaining to wassail, or to a wassail; convivial; as, a wassail bowl.

"Awassail candle, my lord, all tallow."


Wassail bowl, a bowl in which wassail was mixed, and placed upon the table. "Spiced wassail bowl." J. Fletcher. "When the cloth was removed, the butler brought in a huge silver vessel . . . Its appearance was hailed with acclamation, being the wassail bowl so renowned in Christmas festivity." W. Irving. -- Wassail cup, a cup from which wassail was drunk.


© Webster 1913.

Was"sail, v. i.

To hold a wassail; to carouse.

Spending all the day, and good part of the night, in dancing, caroling, and wassailing. Sir P. Sidney.


© Webster 1913.

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