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.