What better way to banish the January blues than to have a day full of merriment celebrating apple trees, the New Year and the new growing season. A Wassail is an ancient custom of bestowing ‘good health’ on an orchard in order to encourage a bountiful crop for the year ahead by chasing away any bad spirits. People would dance, sing and toast the trees with spiced warm ale, mead or cider.
Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand’ring
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,Traditional 19th century Wassail song
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year
Wassailers would make as much noise as possible, banging pots and sticks, ensuring nothing could lurk among the branches and bring a bad crop. The whole community would join in and travel to all the orchards in the surrounding villages.
There are many Wassail variations in the traditional cider making parts of the country. However, the Brymbo Heritage Orchard group decided to create a new tradition by starting our own wassail to bless our orchard in Brymbo. The first trees were only planted two years ago and our first Wassail took place last year; this is something we don’t believe has been practiced in our area before.
During the day we had activities such as apple bobbing, making face masks, badge making and a visit from our very own green man who led the blessing of some of our baby trees. While a fire pit roared outside, around which marshmallows were toasted, the rain eventually forced us to seek shelter within the historical steelworks building. Inside, guests were treated to performances from The Cambria Drum Band, traditional Wassail songs from the local Singalong Singers choir and dancing from the Kinnerton Morris Men.
Our very own mulled cider and juice was available to drink as well as home made apple scones, chocolate apple slices and pork and apple baps provided by ‘Eat With Kev’.
Hopefully as our orchard grows so too will this community event, establishing itself as a ‘new tradition’.