Wassailing: Pagan roots

Round & About

Wassailing is an ancient English custom designed to ensure a plentiful crop in the spring and nowadays the chance to drink cider too; join in at Lily Hill Park.

There are some great English traditions that would leave many from foreign countries scratching their heads – high on this list must be wassailing.

The English custom has its roots in Paganism; the word comes from the old Anglo Saxon “wes bu hal” meaning “in good health”, with the idea being to bless the orchard to ensure a plentiful crop next season.

The custom has long been linked with cider-producing counties such as Somerset and Herefordshire but there has been a resurgence in it and this year Bracknell Forest Council will hold its ninth annual public wassail at Lily Hill Park community orchard. The ceremony involves choosing a wassail king or queen who places cider-soaked toast in the branches, feeding the good spirits of the orchard. Nowadays pots and pans, rather than shotguns, are used to make as much noise as possible to scare away evil spirits before everyone joins in pouring cider or apple juice around the roots of the oldest or best tree.

All this is done to the singing of a wassail song by firelight while apple pies and cider or apple juice are enjoyed. Lily Hill Park has once again invited the OBJ Morris Men to liven up the evening, from 5.30pm to 7pm.

To join in the celebrations of this ancient tradition on Saturday, 12th January, book on the council’s website at www.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/parks-and-countryside/events

Please take along cider or apple juice and meet at the north car park, RG12 2RX. The event costs £4.14 per person.