Orchard wassailing has been taking place for centuries. References to this ancient custom can be found in texts dating back to the 14th century. In the last few years, it has experienced a bit of a renaissance in the West Country, and the cider and perry orchards in Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Shropshire and Herefordshire.
Traditionally wassailing takes place around twelfth night on January 6th or for those that follow the old Julien calendar on January 17th. The custom, which has its roots in paganism, celebrates the apple harvest and involves a blessing of the trees to ensure a bountiful harvest in the year ahead. It can be a raucous affair with everyone banging pots and pans, blowing whistles or firing shotguns – anything that creates a lot of noise to help wake the trees from their wintry sleep and frighten off the evil spirits. The ceremony is often centred around the most venerable tree in the orchard. Offerings are made, and cider is sprinkled around its roots as a gift to the deities.
If you would like to help us celebrate last year’s apple crop and ensure a good harvest for the year ahead come and join us at the Lower House Farm Orchard on January 18th at 1400 for dancing, noise-making and some traditional story-telling. Hot drinks and appley goodies will be available. This is a book in only event so please call the Herefordshire Nature Trust on 01432 356872 to secure your place.