In a slight change to normal proceedings our House Steward has written a post all about our most recent volunteer event.
Here’s to thee old apple tree, long may you bear.
Hats full, caps full, three bushel bags full,
And a little heap under the stairs
On a gloriously crisp and sunny January afternoon (not something you hear very often), Snowshill’s second Wassail celebration got under way with singing and dancing courtesy of the Happenstance Border Morris. ‘Wassail’ is old English for ‘your health’ and was traditionally said when passing around the ceremonial drinking bowl or cup; the reply was ‘Drinkhai!’ From this tradition developed the wassailing of the orchard, offering blessings for the health of the trees and abundant crops in the forthcoming year.
First, a King and Queen of the Wassail are chosen and the method of selection for this honour was popular with all (finding a cherry in a blue or pink fairy cake!). Once chosen, the newly crowned monarchs lead the procession of musicians and singers to the orchard. A tree had already been chosen to receive the main blessing and was decorated with pots and pans (more on that later).
Cider is poured onto the roots and cider-soaked toast is tied to the branches to ‘feed’ the tree. The ‘Wassailing Song’ is sung and then it is time to awaken the orchard and frighten away any bad spirits. A gun is fired and the participants bang the pots and pans in what is sometimes known as ‘apple howling’.
The afternoon was rounded off by some vigorous dancing around the orchard. Friends and strangers linked hands and spun around the apple tree to the tune of a traditional Snowshill Village dance. It was a somewhat inelegant affair due in no small part to the uneven ground and, certainly on my part, a distinct lack of coordination. As the notes of the music faded and the sun sank behind the hill, the participants departed with laughter and good cheer in a procession of home-made lanterns.
Traditionally, much cider is drunk following a wassail, both in celebration of the previous year’s harvest and in anticipation of the next. So I say here’s to the next Snowshill Wassail and I hope you’ll join us again. ‘Drinkhail!’