Helpful Holiday Hints from a Former Wassail Queen

Wassail Queen

Excellence does not require perfection.

Henry James

Thank goodness, because last year I’m pretty sure I humiliated myself in the cider orchard.

Wassailing apple trees is not as easy as one might imagine. And of course, hard cider + guns + bon fires . . . . ahem.


Wassail comes from the Anglo Saxon and literally means ‘be of good health’. In some cider making areas, there saw the emergence of the child ‘Wassail Queen’. The Wassail Queen had an important part to play in the custom of ‘Apple Wassailing’.

After dark, on Old Twelfth Night (January 17th) she would be led out in torch procession to the cider orchard where it was her duty to knock on the trunk of the oldest apple tree, known as the ‘Apple Tree Man’, and order him to ‘awake!’

She would be lifted up to place toast or cake that had been soaked in cider, in the forks of the branches, while other revellers would pour cider around its roots and over its branches, all to the sound of beating pots and pans and the blowing of horns.

Shot guns would then be fired up through the branches and a traditional Wassailing song would be sung by everyone present. Afterwards there would be dancing and festivities. The tradition of Wassailing was done so as to ensure good luck and good health and the hope of a good apple crop in the coming year.

Word to the wise, never let the “Wassail Queen” hit the hard cider based wassail before the ceremony.


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