I’m reposting this from my Pagan Household column because I think you all will enjoy it as well.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve had a hard week. So I’ve decided to turn my mind to the things I am looking forward to about the upcoming holidays. And one of the things that I like best about Yule is Wassail.
For those of you who are not familiar with this delicious Yule treat, Wassail is an old Saxon tradition. The word breaks down to ‘Waes Hail’ or ‘Good Health,’ and it was traditional to drink to the ‘good health’ of the village for the year. The young men of the village would go door to door on Yule singing a Wassail song. Each household would give them silver to “pay” the young men to drink for the good health of the household and their fields for the new year. This is where caroling comes from, and in many small towns in England, this old tradition is still carried on to this day. (Bobbing for apples probably came from the wassail tradition as well).
Wassail is a hot punch that brings comfort and cheer, though I wouldn’t recommend it for the children. (Unless of course, you want your children to sleep very soundly that night. In all honesty, you can make this completely alcohol free, though traditionally the alcohol is an important component, ritually and practically).
Wassail Recipe –
1 gallon local cider
1 or 2 bottles ale (whatever brand you prefer, I like to use locally brewed)
A fifth of brandy (again, whichever brand you prefer)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
First you should clove your apples and pears. All you need to do for this is to take your apples and pears and spear them with cloves all over. Some people do it in orderly rows or patterns (we’re not that picky in my household). When the fruit is liberally stuck with cloves, set them aside until later.
Next you must mull your cider. To mull, pour a jug of cider into a large stock pot and heat it until it’s almost boiling. When it’s almost boiling, you add in one or two bottles of ale and a fifth of your preferred brandy. The amount of each alcohol can vary, depending on how strong you like your Wassail.
After this mixture has heated back to almost boiling, add in your cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. The amounts of these are again a matter of taste, I would start with a teaspoon each and then taste and see how you feel about it. After you add in your spices, drop in the cloved apples and pears. Gently stir at a constant temperature for about five minutes.
Serve and keep it warm for as long as people want to keep drinking it. (I’ve seen people put it in a Crockpot and set it on low if your event or party is lasting for a while).
After making your Wassail, make sure everyone has a glass and raise a Bragi Toast, which is an old Viking tradition. Make vows for the things that you plan to do in the new year. Traditionally people standing in a circle would make a vow and take a drink, one after another until the Wassail was all gone. This is where our modern New Year’s Resolutions come from.
Don’t be surprised if you become tipsy enough to vow to invade Iceland. (Gotta watch out for that one…)
You could also sing a Wassailing song or two…
Old Apple tree, old apple tree;
We’ve come to wassail thee;
To bear and to bow apples enow;
Hats full, caps full, three bushel bags full;
Barn floors full and a little heap under the stairs.
Hopefully the Wassail will remind you, like it does me, of all the things we have in our lives that make them wonderful. And when the Joulupukki comes for your leftovers on Yule night, he will be just as pleased and leave even more presents under the Yule tree.