Wassail: The Drink, the Ritual, and the Apple Tree Man

If you did not fulfill your holiday celebration quota this year, Virtue Cider has just the cure: our annual Wassail celebration. Historically, wassails occurred during New Year’s Eve and the celebrations have their roots in 5th Century Britain. Here's a bit more about the tradition:

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Participants join around a bonfire, adorn feathered masks and hats and other natural costumes and file into the apple orchard, lead by the Wassail Queen and the Green Man. With torches to light the way, wassailers lay cider-dampened slices of bread or toast in the boughs of the apple trees. Cider was also poured over the tree roots to honor the Apple Tree Man. The Apple Tree Man is the spirit of the oldest apple tree in an orchard, and in whom the fertility of the orchard is thought to reside. The bread, dipped in cider is said to satisfy the Apple Tree Man by blessing the trees to ensure enough water and a good crop in the forthcoming season (9). Then, all participants begin to sing (wassail). The singing wakes the trees from their winter slumber.

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The drink of choice at the celebration is also named “wassail,” a spiced or mulled cider. Wassail comes from the Norse phrase, “ves heill,” meaning a toast to your good health. Traditional wassail is made from “mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar.” (1) Virtue Cider created two varieties of wassail: a hot mulled cider, traditionally named “lambswool,” and a cold, carbonated version of spiced cider on draft.

Today, there is over 1,500 years of wassailing history in the books. To wish Virtue Cider a hearty apple harvest in 2018 and wassail with us, join us at our 3rd Annual Wassail on February 10, 2018. We have a lot to choose from: snowshoe tours, wassail ciders options, Percheron sleigh rides, a live music processional into our orchards, a bonfire, and other Green Man traditions. (If you need a ride from the Chicago area, we have a shuttle that will take you to and from Wassail.)

—Kim Collins, Virtue Cider tour guide

Additional Wassail reading:

1.     https://www.whychristmas.com/customs/wassailing.shtml#wassailing

2.     https://talesofthecocktail.com/history/history-wassail-punch

3.     http://oakden.co.uk/lambswool/

4.     https://britishfoodhistory.com/2014/01/07/wassail/

5.     https://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/Notes_On_Carols/wassailing.htm

6.     http://www.academia.edu/19739573/Wassail_The_origins_of_a_drinking_toast

7.     http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/wassailing-season-is-upon-us-the-ancient-pagan-ritual-is-bouncing-back-thanks-to-a-new-generation-of-9954124.html

8.     https://thecompanyofthegreenman.wordpress.com/tag/wassail/

9.     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Wassail