Wassaile the trees that they may beare
You many a plum and many a pear.
For more or less fruits they will bring,
As you do give them wassailing.
I think things are rapidly going downhill, since I moved to the UK.
From a spacious house to a much smaller narrowboat, from a decent citizen to a water gypsy, and from a (non-practicing) catholic to a pagan.
We’re at the same venue as New Year’s Eve. A small farm, straight out of magazines like Country Life. It has a courtyard with a water feature, a wonderful garden with an orchard, and a converted barn, turned into a dance hall. Chicken, and even a peacock, are roaming around the orchard.
The purpose of today’s get-together is twofold: we’re having our annual Christmas Lunch, and we’ll perform a traditional ceremony called Wassailing. I know, we’ve got the dates mixed up a little. Christmas is more than two weeks ago, and the ceremony of wassailing is supposed to be celebrated on Twelfth Night (mostly regarded as January 6, but more properly the evening of January 5).
Or on Old Twelvey Night (January 17) which would have been the correct date before the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752.
Today’s program also has the sequence wrong: we should have Christmas Lunch at lunch time, and wassail when it’s dark.
But this is morris related, so don’t expect anything normal.
With the table set for Christmas Lunch, we start with a drink of mulled cider.
After that it’s off to the orchard, armed with party poppers and noise-making tools.
We sing a wassail song, Alan puts slices of bread (soaked in cider) to the branches (slices that immediately fall off, and are eaten by the chicken) and he sprinkles the tree with cider.
We sing another song and make a hell of a noise to scare away evil spirits.
By then we assume the cider apple tree is awake, and will provide a good harvest of fruit in the autumn.
We go inside, and have an excellent Christmas Lunch, home made, and locally sourced. With chicken liver paté (served with seedy crackers, medlar cheese* and salad garnish), melon with Parma ham, or winter squash soup. As a mains we have roast loin of pork (with apple sauce, sage and onion stuffing and traditional gravy), or aubergine cassoulet, both served with new potatoes, broccoli and mixed steam-roasted root vegetables.
For desert there is a selection of puds (served with cream), a cheeseboard, and tea or coffee and chocs.
It’s dark when we get home, and I definitely intent to stay away from the scales in the bathroom tomorrow…
*Wæs þu hæl: Anglo-Saxon for be thou hale (be in good health).
* Medlar cheese: this is not a cheese, but something similar to apple sauce, made from medlars. I didn’t have a clue what a medlar was, but when Peter told me it’s Latin name (Mespilus germanica) I knew the Dutch word for it: we call it a Mispel.
And suddenly an old riddle from my childhood went trough my mind:
Vief herten, vief sterten en nen prik in’t gat,
roa roa, wat is dat?