Wassail, which now means either a delicious drink of mulled cider or a blessing of the apple orchards, originally comes from an Old English term 'waes hael', meaning ' be well'. Both the drink and the blessing are traditions associated with this time of year.
Last January I went to a fantastic wassail celebration run by Hunters Moon Morris at Middle Farm cider orchards, in Firle, East Sussex. There was much drinking of cider, great entertainment and toasting of the apple trees - both by alcohol and an enormous bonfire.
I was very pleased to discover they are doing it again this Saturday, although it was so popular last year they have been forced to make it a ticket-only event due to health and safety considerations.
The wassail starts at 6pm with a barbecue, drinks, morris dancers, drummers and a mummers' play. This will lead onto a torch-lit procession which will wind its way to the orchard to wassail the apple trees. Afterwards there will be a party in the barn.
For more information and to buy tickets see the Hunters Moon Morris website: www.huntersmoonmorris.co.uk/ or contact 01323 769848.
Middle Farm is at Firle, Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6LJ. For more information about Middle Farm, visit www.middlefarm.com/
For more on the history of wassailing, visit: www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/Xmas/wassail.htm
Here is a link to a wassail recipe: www.history.uk.com/recipes/index.php?archive=31