Monday, December 7, 2015

Wassailing the trees

  I love trees, and was truly enamored at the thought of  singing (and drinking) to their health. The word 'Wassail' is derived from the Old Norse 'Ves heill', from whence came the Old English salutation 'Wes Hal', meaning 'Be thou hale'. As it stems from Anglo/Saxon, it is thought to predate the Norman Conquest. 

  Although it is a rather riotous celebration, it's taken quite seriously by those who depend on a good harvest for their livelihood. Especially in the English counties of Devon, Somerset, Dorset Goucestershire, and Herefordshire.

Reciting poems and singing to the trees was meant to promote their health and insure a good harvest for the coming year.

The chanting of incantations, banging on drums and pots and pans and even firing a volley into the branches was meant to drive away evil spirits.


 The wassail King and Queen lead the procession from one orchard to the next. Periodically, the wassail Queen will be lifted up into the boughs of the tree where she will place a piece of toast soaked in Wassail from the Clayen Cup (an earthenware vessel filled with cider) as a gift                                                                     to the tree spirits.  

I've always associated Wassailing with caroling during the Christmas season. The wassailing of trees, however, was celebrated on Twelfth Night (January 6, or the evening of January 5) or to be strictly correct on "Old Twelvey Night" (January 17) the true date before the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752.

 This year, why not extend your holiday festivities, and come January honor the trees that give us shelter and shade, bear fruit to be savored, and clean the air we breathe.

                    HAPPY WASSAILING 
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Krista Ames
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Krista Ames


  1. Good morning Gini,
    Thank you for reminding us to honor trees. We can't have a "real" tree in our house during this season, due to allergies. But I appreciate them each time I walk through parks in my city.
    Merry Christmas.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Annette: I don't have any kind of tree in the house due to CATS! Glad you can enjoy them out of doors.

  2. Great post, Denyse! Love learning about Christmas traditions of the past. The Christmas stocking is always a favourite at our house. Lots of fun little gifts.

    1. To read more on the history of Christmas stockings go to

  3. Great post Gini. I loved reading about Wassailing (Did I spell that right?) the trees. I had never heard of that tradition, but so many traditions in England depend on which part of the country you're in.
    I'm also impressed by the amount of research you put into your work.
    I hope you have a great Christmas and if you wassail the trees be sure to take pictures to show us :)

    1. Hi Marlow: Wishing you a great Christmas too. I do plan to Wassail the trees but alas will only have photo's if I can get the goat or donkey to take them.

  4. I LOVE learning more of the history of festive traditions. Thanks so much!

  5. Interesting article. I love the idea of toast in the trees. Think I will try that this winter.

    1. Hi Joye: Thank you for stopping by. Glad you are inspired to try this in the new year.
      Happy Holidays.