January Is Wassail Season

A cold and dark January, time for Wassailing in Somerset…

January can be the Coldest and Darkest of Months, and after the excesses and fun of Christmas, quite a dour month to get through. But there is one thing that happens in January guaranteed to brighten up the darkest and coldest of Evenings. It’s Called Wassailing !

It’s a traditional event not widely known or understood outside the West Country so let mew explain.

The wassailing, or blessing of the fruit trees, involves drinking and singing to the health of the trees in the hope that they will provide a bountiful harvest in the autumn. This ancient custom is still practised across the country today, and is particularly popular in the Cider making ares of England, such as Somerset, Gloucestershire,

The celebrations vary from region to region, but generally involve a wassail King and Queen leading the assembled group of revellers, comprising the farmers, farm workers and general villagers, in a noisy procession into the orchard.they gather round the biggest and best tree, and as a gift to the tree spirits, the Queen places a piece of wassail soaked toast into its branches, accompanied by songs such as;

“Apple tree, apple tree we all come to wassail thee,
Bear this year and next year to bloom and blow,
Hat fulls, cap fulls, three cornered sacks fills…”

I’m lucky enough to have covered the Thatchers Cider Wassail for the past 10 years or so I’ve seen a fair amount of cider poured on toast while shotguns are fired and Pots and Pans are banged with wooden spoons. It could described as a slightly bonkers event but the tradition goes back a long long way, and the cider makers take it very serious, as the process is wrapped in history and nature. The Thatchers Wassail has not only it’s very own Wassail queen but also a lively green man who not only likes a pint of cider but will happily dance around the tree, he’s quite a hit with the revellers as you can imagine. The other big hit is the appearance of Michael Eavis, the Legendary founder of The Glastonbury Festival

Some images from this years Thatchers Cider Wassail

Some images from this years Thatchers Cider Wassail

I also took the time to visit Barley Wood’s Cider Orchard Wassail the week before. Set in the beautiful gardens of The Ethicurean they put in a magical evening, with mulled cider in the Round Cider House, a circle of fire in the Orchard and a Wassail Queen in the biggest tree that they can find.