The Many Meanings of Wassail

It’s January, and I’m an cider writer, so, as written in the Cedars Writers Guild’s Ethics Code (not a real thing yet, but it looks like it might not be too far in reality?), I’m duty-bound to write about Wasil.

The good news is that this ancient habit has, nicely, been well documented and explored over the past few years. Notable examples include Colin Cater’s fab, and cider-in-residence photographer Bill Bradshaw’s stunning. Your book also wrote about sailing in my first book, Ciderology (still available for purchase!), which summarizes some of the key features and inherent beauty of this winter time pool.

Since writing this article, my knowledge about wassail has grown at the same time and decreased to zero at the same time that I fully realized and accept that term means Not the only area for cider or orchards. The original idiomatic points have originated many different prairies, but the genetic links sport.

Here is the potted archive:

700 AD – The Old Salute Derived from the North

The roots seem to extend back like the original party animals – the Vikings. Much like their prolific Scandinavian ancestors, the Vikings were cheerful (if they looted a bit), and Fez Hill It was a greeting in their Old Norse language, which means “be whole” or “healthy”. Modern equivalents would be – Greetings (England), Kia Ora (Ti Rio Maori, New Zealand) or Hody (19)y Midwestern USA letter from xxxx – enter the western spaghetti of your choice here).

800 AD: Anglo-Saxon salutation

When the Vikings and Old Norse arrived in England, they met their Danish enemies, the Anglo-Saxons. Delights were exchanged, and the Vikings left, but much of Old Norse turned into Old English. spelling Fez Hill change to Wes Hail. But it wasn’t just the spelling that was changed, it was the meaning, for Wise Hail As a salutation it is now applied as a form of drinking – something you said before taking a heavy gulp of an alcoholic drink.

The modern equivalent will be in your favor! (American TV series launched Ted Danson’s career) Tuba! (Basque Country), Kanpai! (Japan), Yec’hed mat! Brittany, Slynt! (Ireland) Skål! (widespread Scandinavia) Proust! (Germany, Luxembourg and Austria) and ¡Salud! (Spain).

These Anglo-Saxons also changed things by providing a response to a cry Wise Hail, that object hail drinc! At some point, bits of refrigerated, or toast, were added to drinks to be greeted, thus coining the phrase to roast.

800: a spiced drink

Much of this drinking and saluting was done with a specific brew — a co-brewing (an on-trend stir) of beer, cider and cider with a healthy skin of spices, such as ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. over time, Wise Hail (or means As modern English would have us spell it), it has become synonymous with spiced cider, and then warm, spiced cider, which is mainly drunk in winter. The term is still particularly strong in the United States, it seems. In the United Kingdom, in the 15th century, this drink was often referred to as “lambswool” due to placing an apple in a hot liquid resulting in a fluffy white soufflé. Later, in the United Kingdom, the term cider is closely related to warm cider, a term borrowed from drawn wine.

All this greeting and responding, drinking and repeating with spiced fermentation in the depths of winter began to become a bit of a ritual in many parts of rural England. It was something that brought families and communities together in celebration and thanksgiving. James Cruden describes in the movie Cider Country “The cider sail was almost a religious affair with a wooden altar and special cups, as if it were a pagan company.” The container from which the drink is served is often made of wood or expensive metal.

1500 – The feast of the tides was a custom of singing and reward.

In the end, all this company and festivity left the confines of the house and took to the streets, where the customs of Midwinter, Christmas, Saturnalia and Masrull began to intertwine and merge like the great cider. Singing for money was door-to-door, with the promise of money in return, sometimes with the threat of violence if not. In the Victorian era, this turned into the most tender Christmas carols, at one point with a nod to its perilous past, such as We Wish You a Merry Christmas – “Now, bring us some fig pudding…because we all love fig pudding…and we’re not going until we have some.”

1500 grated orchards.

In some parts of western and southwestern England, some revelers thought it best to spend their time not trying to wrest a shilling from the Lord of the Manor, but to go out into the grove and plead with the ancient gods for a bountiful harvest. This rural sail was not just about apples and orchards – all kinds of crops were exterminated in the past, even cows!


Surely wassail, in whatever interpretation of the word you choose, couldn’t be something aloof only from the Little British Isles? Well, when it comes to old habits like leg kicking, running in a tar barrel, swamp-drenching and cheese-rolling (proudly a native of Gloucestershire), perhaps our eccentricities set us apart from our cosmopolitan counterparts.

Thinking about international sailing, I flashed flashbacks to the most memorable orchard I’ve ever participated in, hosted by my Angry Orchard friends at the gorgeous Cider House in Walden, New York. Now, I used to be cold when cruising, toes breaking in wells and sometimes (like the Herefordshire Wassail I participated in in 2010) I dance like a tool in the snow. But this was a sail at -10°C (xx F) and Sharpie was in imminent danger of breaking off like ice.

This was memorable for a large number of Wasael orchards for the first time: first in the United States; It is preceded at first by a matching dinner of seven ciders of absolutely fine quality; I first took part in that which started after one in the morning; first where I wore the fox mask; and first, where I awoke the next morning in disrepair to a greater reputation than was even advisable for Oliver Reed.

The Angry Wasael Orchard is, of course, a modern phenomenon, gleefully glorifying the proud, quirky and deeply rooted culture of cider from the British mother. But this recollection made me think of how special this ancient custom was for Great Britain. Was it exported to the United States, along with apple trees with New England colonists? I haven’t come across any previously banned accounts of the orchard being sailing (anyone knows which then tell me!), but a lot of disorganized items seem to be they were I continue.

This excellent article has been well documented on the Slavery and Remembrance website. Here, the author, Robert Doares, documents accounts of sailing practices over the centuries, including menacing sailors from the late 17th century.y Horn of Salem, Massachusetts, Claims Homemade Berry Wilds; Southern plantation owners opened their doors to slaves at Christmas like their peers, the British squares; And the emergence of eggnog as a new interpretation of the drink Alwasail.


Photo: Willie Smith juice

Outside the US and Canada, there is only one exotic example of orchard sailing (Wille Smith’s Mid-Winter Festival comes to mind), but what about the old world of orchards and cider – Northwest Europe? It is interesting that, from my little research, Normandy, Brittany, and Asturias, although they had autumn and winter habits, did not make anything of a strong sail compass. Perhaps not surprisingly, the greatest evidence of wickedness comes from a culture with ancient pre-Christian roots – the Basques.

Photo: Haritz Rodriguez

Of course, Basque juice culture has its own unique tradition txotx – Taste the new apple juice. Haritz Rodrigues, also known as Ciderzale, is a Basque juice expert who has written, presented, and advocated on the subject for several years. In this article describes the origins txotxBut he also told me that British sail is associated with the broader European “carnivals” that take place between January and February, farewell to dark winters, and welcome to welcome spring and ask for a blossoming harvest. Here he describes some of the similarities in detail:

“In the Basque Country, during Carnival, there is a custom known as ‘puska biltzea’. It is about going to the houses and farms that offer dances in exchange for food. In fact, even the clothes are very similar to that of the British dancers. In some places they dress as ‘Moors’. or “gypsies,” both of which are very prevalent in rural carnival.

“Carnival is a tradition deeply rooted in the Basque Country. From the oldest rural carnivals, through the Renaissance carnivals to the more modern Tolosa carnivals. They are not particularly associated with present-day cider culture, but it is true that there is a group of dances known as “apple dances”. (Sagar Dantzak)

Photo: Haritz Rodriguez


So, it seems that although the more extensive squall customs are common across Europe, the act of orchard cruising is something truly unique for cider lovers in our small group of islands. cornucopia! The peculiarities of cider that are regionally linked is something to celebrate – Bretons and Normans have kiving; Asturians to wipe; The Basques have txotx; And the British dance like fools with burning torches and guns in a frozen grove.

The essence of Orchard Sailing remains that sense of community – to bring people together, to share, to celebrate and to laugh. Pomona knows we can all do a little more of that after our last two challenging years. But the orchard was a sail not without its own challenges and considerations.

In many classic Western cider-making areas, the orchard is often led by Border Morris men, who classically paint their faces. There are several theories associated with the roots of this costume. One strong point of view concerns 15 .y A poor century farm worker smears their faces with soot to hide their identity as they begged – illegal at the time. Others refer to the original as a cat version of the Moorish (MorrisDance from the Elizabethan era and finally the 19th centuryy Singer century traditions, full of colorful clothes, music and skin tone.

Yes, blackening their Borders’ faces is a tradition, but so was enslaving black bears – doesn’t necessarily make it appropriate today. Even if it’s the origins black face It was not originally racist in intent, one cannot simply call semantics in our society. We can’t be shy about embarrassing questions. We can’t say it doesn’t matter. The simple truth is that blackening faces will make people of color feel uncomfortable and unwilling to partake and celebrate this wonderful habit of cider.

As necessitated by the Morris Federation since 2020, I suggest that the men of Morris, or any former participant in the orchard, use another color of face paint instead, the classic pagan green. the robe green face He still fits the disguise habit and is very much in line with Pacha Mama and the Green Man.

Let’s not turn this into a culture wars argument – how about simply recognizing that cider, just like Morris, is a living tradition, constantly evolving and adapting to the times, and that we all want cider to be a welcome and safe place and place. I say means till then.

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