The Apple Wassail

The Apple Wassail

Encircling Mystery

at the 

Awakening of the Year

Apple Wassailing is a mid-winter activity designed to ‘wake-up’ the apple trees & encourage them to grow well and produce a good crop of fruit in the coming season.

Traditionally the ceremony occurs in the evening of 17th January which is ‘Twelfth Night, Old-Style’ (the Julian calendar used in the UK between the years 1156 & 1752).

“On Twelfth Day Eve (17th January ‘Old Style’), the farmers used to rally out with guns and blunderbusses, and fire with powder only at the apple-trees in the orchards, pronouncing an invocation in doggerel, praying for a bountiful harvest of fruit.”

The impact on the Apple Trees of this ritual may be, in these modern commercial times, be limited but the beneficial social and community impact for the participants  can be considerable.

Thus it was that a group, young and old, from Dyffryn Ceri in Mid Wales, gathered on Saturday 18th January 2014. All ready to ‘Announce’ the New Year & waken the apple trees that grew in gardens near and within a closed valley known as ‘the City’.

26 Dyf C

As the ceremonial procession made its way in heavy rain over fouled muddy ground and through 3 small orchards, the group, many of whom who had not met previously, became a Merrie Band, shouting, singing and ‘hurroo-ing’ the apple trees. Explosions of various types were created during the procession.

wassail route

The pictures below feature some of the actions – and give clear indication of the weather conditions.

The evening had the following ceremonial sequence:

The Ceremonial Events through The City

Local tradition well attested in antick documents & here meticulously followed, requires

Gathering: outside the City,

Procession: through the ‘core’ of The City

Ascent: to Lower View, above The City

in each orchard:

The Solemn Address

to the trees

The Joyful Bellowing Alarum Call

dan arweiniad y Cerddorion y Ddinas Dyffryn Ceri (The ‘City’ Waits)

Announcing to the Apple Trees that The Year Has Turned

The Community Blessing

Made by All in Unity & Addressed to the trees that they Be Fruitful

The Gift of The Old Fruitful Life 

ensuring continuing bounty & placed on the Trees

The Wassailing Song 


The Great Awakening of the Apple Tree

‘The Gathering’ included food, preparations and sharing of the mulled cider that would later also be given to the trees,

1 assembly

2 assembly 1



5 mulled cider3 assembly 24 assembly 4

The group then made their procession through the orchards – following, despite the heavy rain, the ceremonial order.

However the large fires, traditional to an Apple Wassailing in this region failed to light & despite great efforts the torches however found survival almost impossible.

6 wet torch

But the readers read & musicians played

9 reading to the tree

10 reading

16 reading

8 wet waits

13 waits

15 blessing


and the blessings and libations of toast soaked in cider were made 
17 tree offering

18 bread

Throughout the evening the Merrie Band of Wassailers Hurrahed and Harroohed joyfully, certain that their Might Noise would dispel all evil charms and ensure a bountiful crop of apples.

19 misty song

Their singing  echoed through the whole of the narrow Cwm that contains The City.

Traditional verses were used (incorporating ancient words lately discovered  & inscribed here with due diligence, the better to make a Good New Year)

Old Christmas it is past and gone

 Sun’s warmth is comin’ back here

We’re gatherin’ ‘neath the old apple tree

Askin’ blessings for the New Year

So sing well

And shout well

Let friends and neighbourhood hear

Waken up ol’ tree & bear good fruit

Give bounty to all far and near

Old apple tree, we’ll wassail thee,

And hoping thou wilt bear. 

The Lord does know where we shall be

To be merry another year.

To blow well and to bear well

And so merry let us be; 

Let every man drink up his cup 

And health to the old apple tree.

Apples enow, hatfuls, capfuls, three-bushel bagfuls,
tollants ol full, barn’s floor full, little heap under the stairs.

Hip, hip, hip, hooroo!
Hip, hip, hip, hooroo!
Hip, hip, hip, hooroo! 

These words were followed with a great shouting & banging, accompanied by the echoing sound of firearms being discharged & the terrifying explosions of released party poppers. On occasions, rockets lit the night sky.

The immediate reward for the evening’s work was, at the destination, warmth food and drink.

20 dry shed22 dry shed

21 dry shed


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