Wassailing ceremonies take place in January when the apple orchards are "toasted" to ensure a good crop. The biggest and best tree - the Apple Tree Man - is selected and cider is poured over its roots and pieces of cider soaked toast placed in the forks of its branches to ensure a good crop. Wassailing is an ancient folk tradition here in Somerset which is cider country. Some of you may remember the advert for Coates cider which had a song saying "Coates comes up from Zummerset where the cider apples grow" ?
There was a huge bonfire round which the crowd of several hundred gathered - the sky was clear and the stars absolutely amazing.
Morris dancing took place in front of this huge fire - I suspect only a born and bred English person could appreciate Morris dancing! Check it out here
The blackened faces apparently significant as a disguise since in olden times the dancing and begging was not allowed and with blackened faces the danceers might not be recognised for who they were since many of them might be begging from their employers!
There were several people wearing these decorated hats - not quite sure of the significance of these but thought them very decorative.
There was also a mummer's play which although we didn't have a very good view there being so many spectators was really funny. A Mummer's play is often about St George and in this case St George was killed by the evil one who spoke of bringing down a plague bankers' bonuses, swine flu, global warming and so on! Of course St George was revived and all was well in the end. St George's mother a burly bloke in drag attacked the evil one with her big red handbag and raised a big laugh!
More Morris dancing this time without their dark coats - this is more like Morris dancing as I know it from summer fetes and the like!
Then came a band which was surprisingly good and extremely loud - no doubt to represent the banging of saucepans and so on which was the original noise and was intended to frighten off any evil spirits from the orchard in times past.
And finally after following a procession to the orchard the largest oldest tree Apple Tree Man was blest. This involved pouring cider over its roots - in olden times I understand this would have been the must left after the making of the cider - and then taking a piece of toast (why toast and not bread I have no idea) and dipping it in to the cider and then lifting children up to place the soaked toast squares in the forks of the brances of the tree to encourage the robins - and other birds no doubt - to eat there and thus to keep the insects away from the trees.
As a final part of the celebrations guns were fired into the tree branches to raise the Sleeping Tree Spirit and scare off any remaining demons - Health and Safety regulations these days stipulating that the rounds have to be blanks especially after the copious amounts of cider which had been imbibed!.
Then we wended our way back to our cars and home for a nice hot drink. As I said something quite different!!
By the way I discovered last night that apparently Christmas would have been celebrated 12 days later when using the Julian calendar and only with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar was Christmas day when it is now. check it out here Thus the Wassail would have been timed for Twelth Night in olden times. I thought perhaps I might celebrate my Christmas this year on 5 January as in olden days that way all the stuff I hate about it would be over by the time I had mine and I might then avaoid the Post Christmas Blues! Anyone want to join me?!!