One of the things that the West Country is famous for is cider and in Devon, this is no exception. If you’re a fan of cider, you’ll definitely want to get involved in a Devon tradition that takes place every January.
Traditionally taking place on 12th Night, which falls on the 5th or 6th January, Wassailing is an ancient festival that ensures a good apple harvest and by extension, a good batch of cider for the coming year.
So, what happens at a Wassail?
Generally speaking, a wassailing ceremony starts with a procession that leads towards an orchard headed up by a wassail King or Queen. Once gathered around the oldest tree, toast is placed in the branches and cider is poured around the roots while those in the procession bang pots and pans. This is done to ward off any evil spirits and wake the trees, so that they are ready to start producing apples. Don’t worry though, not all the cider is poured over the tree roots, you also get to taste local cider too!
What does it all mean?
Well, the word ‘wassail’ comes from the Middle English phrase waes hael which would be akin to saying ‘be in good health’. So essentially, you’re convincing the trees to be healthy. During the ceremony, you might hear someone say “waes hael” to which you should reply “drinc hael’ meaning “drink and be healthy”, something I’m sure the cider drinkers present would heartly agree with.
The tradition of Wassailing dates back to Anglo Saxon times and is something that is still celebrated in parts of Devon. Make sure to keep an eye on our what’s on pages to find your nearest wassailing ceremony!