When I was a little girl, living in a small village in the middle of Somerset, the Wassail every January was a big event. All the school children held lanterns as we walked through the village, visiting each cider orchard to bless the apple trees. I have such wonderful memories of this event, faces lit up by the glowing lanterns, old men singing, drinking cider, toast hanging from the branches, hot chocolate for cold children, and happy joyus times.
I haven't been to a Wassail since then, so when I saw that The Ethicurean was hosting their own Wassail at their own orchard to celebrate the Greenman I jumped at the chance to buy tickets. Perfect for introducing the boys to the West Country tradition, and be part of it as I did at their age.
So here's to cider, wild boar sausages, music and tradition - I cannot wait!
Source Wikipedia: In the cider-producing counties in the South West of England (primarily Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire) or South East England (Kent, Sussex and Essex, Suffolk) wassailing refers to a traditional ceremony that involves singing and drinking the health of trees in the hopes that they might better thrive. The purpose of wassailing is to awake the cider apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the Autumn. The ceremonies of each wassail vary from village to village but they generally all have the same core elements. A wassail King and Queen lead the song and/or a processional tune to be played/sung from one orchard to the next, the wassail Queen will then be lifted up into the boughs of the tree where she will place toast soaked in Wassail from the Clayen Cup as a gift to the tree spirits (and to show the fruits created the previous year).In some counties the youngest boy or "Tom Tit" would step in for the Queen and hang the cider soaked toast in the tree.