(Taken from projectbritian.com/Xmas)
Wassailing has been associated with Christmas and New Year as far back as the 1400s. It was a way of passing on good wishes among family and friends.
One of the most popular Wassailing Carols went like this:
Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wassailing,
So fair to be seen:
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too,
And God bless you and send you,
A happy New Year,
And God send you,
A happy new year.
What is Wassail?
Wassail is an ale-based drink seasoned with spices and honey. It was served from huge bowls, often made of silver or pewter. The Wassail bowl would be passed around with the greeting, ‘Wassail’.
There are three main ways of wassailing.
1. The filling of a common bowl or cup often referred to as a ‘Loving Cup’ and passing it around a room to be shared.
2. Taking a bowl of Wassail around houses
3. A celebration of the apple harvest and the blessing of the fruit or trees.
Where does the name Wassail come from?
Wassail gets its name from the Old English term “waes hael”, meaning “be well”. It was a Saxon custom that, at the start of each year, the lord of the manor would shout ‘waes hael’. The assembled crowd would reply ‘drinc hael’, meaning ‘drink and be healthy’.
As time went on, the tradition was carried on by people going from door to door, bearing good wishes and a wassail bowl of hot, spiced ale. In return people in the houses gave them drink, money and Christmas fare (special foods eaten during Christmas time e.g. mince pies) and they believed they would receive good luck for the year to come.