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Sozzled in the Cider Orchards, or Quaffing a Woolly Drink.

Sozzled in the Cider Orchards, or Quaffing a Woolly Drink.

While you were out carolling this Christmas and being offered mince pies, or a door in the face, depending on the wont of your neighbours, spare a thought for the householders and orchardists of yore.  For a start, they wouldn’t have been swaddled in our Unisex Classic Range 100% Twin Face Sheepskin Boots, so their feet would probably have been plagued with chilblains.  In the beginning wassailing was two distinct customs, one a house-visiting tradition and the other an orchard- visiting practice.  The latter was popular in the West Country, especially in Somerset where cider orchards were prevalent.  If you were out in the orchards it would have been wise to snuggle your fingers into Sheepland’s Ladies or Men’s Sheepskin Gloves or Mittens; cosy luxury for a winter’s evening, preventing frozen digits from dropping the wassail cup.  

The purpose of wassailing is to bless the orchards and request a bountiful harvest.  This is done by a wassail King and Queen, who lead the procession of merrymakers.  The Queen places a cider-soaked slice of toast in the branches of the oldest tree in the orchard, where the spirit of the orchard, the Apple Tree Man, is believed to reside.  Everyone drinks from the wassail cup and a song is sung by all, exhorting the trees to be fruitful.  Pots and pans are banged together, there is much shouting and shotguns are fired through the tree branches.  (Now would be the time to don your Handmade Shearling ‘Katy’ Hat, a wonderful insulator, and ram it down over your ears, if you are desirous of hearing the end of the song.)  All this activity wards off the evil spirits (in the form of worms and maggots) and propitiates the good spirit, the robin (who presumably scoffs the worms and maggots).

Gradually, the domestic wassailers turned into carol singers, whilst the agricultural group have continued to bless the cider orchards.  Traditionalists wassail on the 17th January, or Old Twelvey Night, as Old Twelfth Night was known before the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752.  Carhampton in Somerset has the longest surviving wassail tradition and adheres to the old date.  However, many people now celebrate on the 6th of January, the current Twelfth Night.

The word wassail derives from the Old English greeting ‘Waes haell’, meaning ‘Be healthy’, to which the response was ‘Drinc haell!’  Today it has become the toast ‘Good health!’  Talking of toasts, the wassailers’ drink was made from hot cider, ale or, less commonly, wine.  Sugar and spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger were then added along with the vital roasted or baked apples.  As the fruit disintegrated in the alcohol, it floated on the surface and gave the appearance of lamb’s wool; hence the beverage was named ‘Lamb’s Wool’.  However, you don’t have to go to such lengths to procure our blissfully fluffy, ivory sheepskin Handmade Luxury Somerset Handmuffs.

Released On 24th Jan 2018

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