Over Christmas we put wassailing (good health) wreaths, made from willow from the the Park, in the apple trees of the community orchard.Then today, Twelfth Night, the trees have been wassailed or blessed.
This involves drinking apple juice/cider, eating Twelfth Night cake, and singing to the health of the trees in the hope that they will provide a bountiful harvest in the autumn.
A wassail starts with a noisy procession around the orchard singing, banging pots, and even firing shotguns in some counties; generally making as much noise as possible in order to both waken the sleeping tree spirits, and also to frighten off any evil demons that may be lurking in the branches.
Then the wassailers gather round the biggest and best tree (this was the one which had the Elf house and which the children visited over Christmas), and as a gift to the tree spirits, a piece of wassail soaked toast is placed into its branches, and apple juice or cider is poured over the roots accompanied by songs. We learnt about this ceremony from attending pruning courses run by the Orchard Project.
Obviously this year was somewhat limited, however it was good fun, and the sun decided to come out for the wassail. We’ll organize it as a community event in 2022.
The trees will now have their winter pruning over the next couple of weeks.