Wassailing in Somerset is a tradition that can be traced back to Anglo-Saxon times. The tradition is marked at the beginning of the year in January around twelfth night (5th January) or even more traditionally on Old Twelvey on the 17th January, where the Lord of the Manor would greet his villagers with a toast of Waes Hael meaning ‘be well’ to which the villagers would reply drink Hael or ‘drink well’.
In Somerset the traditional Wassail drink would be Cider blended with honey and spices. This would be served in a large bowl and the bowl would be passed from person to person while greeting the wassail greeting or singing songs.
“Apple tree, apple tree we all come to wassail thee,
Bear this year and next year to bloom and blow,
Hat fulls, cap fulls, three cornered sacks fills…”
There are two variations of wassailing. One involves groups of merrymakers going from one house to another, wassail bowl in hand, singing traditional songs and generally spreading fun and good wishes. The other form of wassailing is generally practised in the Somerset countryside, particularly in fruit growing regions, where it is the Apple trees that are blessed for a good crop during the year to make cider.
The celebrations vary from region to region, but Wassailing in Somerset generally involves a wassail King and Queen or Green Man, leading the assembled group of revellers, comprising the farmers, farm workers and general villagers, in a noisy procession from one orchard to the next. In each orchard the Wassailer’s gather round the biggest and best tree, and as a gift to the tree spirits, the Queen places a piece of wassail soaked toast into its branches.
The wassailing, or blessing of the fruit trees, involves drinking and singing to the health of the trees in the hope that they will provide a bountiful harvest in the autumn.
This ancient custom is still practised across the country today, and is particularly popular in the cider-producing areas of England, such as Somerset
The visitors celebrate in the orchard; singing, shouting, banging pots and pans, and even firing shotguns, generally making as much noise as possible in order to both waken the sleeping tree spirits, and also to frighten off any evil demons that may be lurking in the branches.
Griffin Toilet Hire are hired during January to local Orchards to provide portable toilet facilities for Wassailing in Somerset. We provide a variety of facilities for the Wassails, including event portable toilets, disabled toilets and urinal blocks as well. This ensures all the revellers are comfortably catered for, especially as many of the participants drink Cider and other drinks as part of the celebration event.