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Happy New Year, 'Was haeil', apple tree wassail and new growth

Date posted: Wednesday 8th January 2020

Happy New Year, 'Was haeil', apple tree wassail and new growth

A very Happy, Peaceful and Fruitful New Year to you all and ‘Waes haeil’!

My plot neighbour and I were lucky enough to be invited to an apple tree wassail at Addison Gardens Allotments on Sunday, coincidently Twelfth Night! It was a splendid affair, with a roaring bonfire, a fine guitar duo, fireworks, food and drink and the traditions of wassail: the Green Man gave the address to the apple tree; toast was hung in the branches for the birds and cider was poured around the tree roots and drunk by the wassailers, while singing a wassail song:

The tradition of wassailing (alt sp wasselling) falls into two distinct categories: the house-visiting wassail and the orchard-visiting wassail. The house-visiting wassail is the practice of people going door-to-door, singing and offering a drink from the wassail bowl in exchange for gifts; this practice still exists, but has largely been displaced by caroling. The orchard-visiting wassail refers to the ancient custom of visiting orchards in cider-producing regions of England, reciting incantations and singing to the trees to promote a good harvest for the coming year. The word wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon greeting Wæs þu hæl, meaning “be thou hale“—i.e., “be in good health”. The correct response to the greeting is Drinc hæl meaning “drink and be healthy”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary waes hael is the Middle English (and hence post-Norman) spelling parallel to OE hál wes þú, and was a greeting not a toast.
The American Heritage Dictionary, fifth edition, gives Old Norse ves heill as the source of Middle English waeshaeil.6 However the Oxford English Dictionary explicitly rejects this, saying “neither in Old English nor in Old Norse, nor indeed in any Germanic language, has any trace been found of the use as drinking formulas”. In recent times, the toast has come to be synonymous with Christmas.
Traditionally, the wassail is celebrated on Twelfth Night (variously on either January 5 or 6). Some people still wassail on “Old Twelvey Night”, January 17, as it would have been before the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752
In the middle ages, the wassail was a reciprocal exchange between the feudal lords and their peasants as a form of recipient-initiated charitable giving, to be distinguished from begging. This point is made in the song “Here We Come A-wassailing”, when the wassailers inform the lord of the house that:
‘We are not daily beggars that beg from door to door
But we are friendly neighbours whom you have seen before.’
The lord of the manor would give food and drink to the peasants in exchange for their blessing and goodwill, i.e.
‘Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you
a Happy New Year’ (Wassailing; Wikipedia)

And such a mild Christmas and New Year fortnight – 16o in Columbus Ohio where I spent a lovely time with my brother and his American family – so warm while we were preparing the vegan Christmas Day main meal with people walking out in shorts and T-shirts. So back to my first snowdrops that have been flowering for the past two weeks – crazy1 Bats were out hunting last night and no insects around. But at least our precious ancient forests and wildlife aren’t going up in flames yet; such an Australian catastrophe and such an appalling response from the PM – it breaks one’s heart..!

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