Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What is Wassail any way?????


Few holiday traditions have endured as long or seen so many variations as that of wassailing. Its origins are unknown, but it is mentioned in texts dating as far back as the Fourteenth Century. In one such text, the leader of a group took a bowl and, raising it to the crowd, shouted "Wassail!" an Old English term meaning "to your health."
There are three variations of the wassailing. One is the filling of a common bowl or cup, often referred to by ancient clergy as the Loving Cup, which was passed around a room to be shared by all. Another variation calls for the bowl to be taken to each individual house, so that neighbors might partake of the wassail as friends. The third is a celebration of the apple harvest and the blessing of the fruit.
The earliest known practice of the wassail was to pour it onto dormant crops and orchards after the harvest to bless the ground for the Spring and ward off evil. Like many such customs originally devoted to defense against wickedness, wassailing has always been something of a festive activity associated with partying and making merry. In the past few centuries, the practice has tended to have more to do with good cheer and well- wishing rather than the blessing of crops.
Wassailing is almost always accompanied by the song: "Here We Come A-Wassailing," which is a Christmas classic loved by many but understood by few. It is often misinterpreted and likened to the act of singing...hence the frequently used "Here We Come A-Caroling" which is substituted for the first line of this popular carol.
The actual ingredients in traditional wassail are widely disputed. This could be attributable to the fact that festive bands who traveled from home to home often replenished the bowl with whatever liquid refreshment was available. While one home might have apple cider, another might have spirits of a stronger sort. There can be little doubt that alcohol has played a storied part of wassail's history, but tradition does not dictate it to be necessary. In fact, the custom is not so much concerned with drink as it is with the good will and society that wassailing generates.
Although wassailing is classically observed during the Christmas holiday season, it is also practiced at weddings and other such similar events where community and family are celebrated.




Hot Christmas Cider

2 quarts apple cider
1/2 cup brown sugar
Dash of salt
1 teaspoon dried ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
cinnamon sticks
Combine cider, sugar and salt in a saucepan. In a small piece of cheesecloth, combine spices, and tie off. Add spice packet to cider mixture, and slowly bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 18-20 minutes. Remove spices.
Serve hot cider in mugs with cinnamon sticks

2 comments:

RamFam said...

My SIL can correct me, but I think she just takes apple juice and throws it in the crockpot with a bag of red hots. Easy. Fast. Delicious.

queen of everything said...

actually i usually use whole cinnamon sticks, cloves, apple juice, brown sugar, and some oj concentrate. let it simmer in the crock pot on low and your house smells heavenly and the drink is wonderful.