By Chris Poh
Perhaps Just Another Creative Way to Get Out of the House
Good master and good mistress,
As you sit beside the fire,
Pray think of us poor children
Who wander in the mire.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year
- From “Here We Come a Wassailing”
Like so many of our holiday traditions, there are conflicting theories
and opinions as to the origin of the ritual of wassailing. There does,
although, seem to be consensus that the ritual had its routes in an
ancient Anglo-Saxon pagan rite of men going off into the woods in early
January—with cup in hand—to invoke the blessings of those spirits that
might insure a healthy harvest of the following year’s apple crop. The
term ‘wassail’ is derived from the phrase ‘waes hael’ which literally
means ‘good health.’
point during the third century, as the Christian celebration of
Christmas spread throughout Europe, the act of wassailing took on some
added dimensions. In England, those of the lower classes would show at
the doors of the more fortunate with the hopes of procuring some of
their worldly blessing - in what might be viewed as an act of
sympathetic shakedown. Later on, as the tradition spread to the American
New England colonies, the behavior would often border on intimidating,
leading some communities to outlaw wassailing altogether. Perhaps it was
the addition of the rum and brandy to the colonist’s wassail bowl, as
opposed to the usual mulled ale or cider mix of their English
counterparts that fueled this aggressive approach to seasonal revelry.
Whatever the case, I suspect that wassailing evolved into just another
creative way to escape from the presence of visiting relatives during
“Honey, I’m going out wassailing now, see you and the kids in a couple of hours.”
Below is my favorite recipe for wassail, taken from the colonial food and beverage archives of the Gaspee Days Committee.
COLONIAL HOT CIDER PUNCH,
· 1 Gallon heated apple cider
· 1/2 ounce brandy flavoring
· 1/2 ounce rum flavoring or (even better) 1/2 quart light rum
· 3 sticks cinnamon
· 3 to 6 whole oranges
· small bag of whole cloves
1. Simmer mixture with 3 sticks whole cinnamon to melt--DO NOT COOK.
2. Allow to cool, pour into punch bowl.
3. Separately stick whole cloves around entire surface of 3 to 6 whole oranges.
4. Place oranges into baking pan with 1/2 inch of water, and bake at 350° for 45 minutes.
5. Place oranges into punch bowl
Editors input: like the rum, I would also increase the amount of brandy in the recipe. I think 6-8 ounces should suffice.