The term Wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon toast , “be thou hale” — in other words “be in good health”. There are different traditions but one of these relates to the encouragement of fruit trees to thrive.
An old rhyme goes:
“Wassaile the trees, that they may beare
You many a Plum and many a Peare:
For more or lesse fruits they will bring,
As you do give them Wassailing.”
The purpose of wassailing is to awake the apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the Autumn.
This is a twelfth night tradition – but there i just some dispute at to whether it should take place on 6th of January (twelfth night by modern Gregorian calendar) or the 17th January (twelfth night by the old Julian Calendar). The choice is yours!
We will certainly be marking the tradition in Derbyshire and who knows we may get a bumper crop of apples in 2012