4th January – Brightwell cum Sotwell Wassail 2015 (Brightwell cum Sotwell, Oxfordshire) Preview

Address: Various Orchards In Brightwell cum Sotwell, Oxfordshire (Website)

Entry Price/Session times:

Sun 4th Jan: 3:30pm onwards (Free)

Tickets: N/A

Event Information:

The village will be Wassailing on Sunday 4 January 2015. Meet at the Memorial just before 3.30 to start the celebrations. Bring something to make lots of noise, torches and lanterns. We will process through the orchards and then end at the Red Lion to drink Lambs Wool and watch torch lit dancing by Armaleggan border dancers.

The odd custom of wassailing is thought to date back to Roman times and was part of a festival for praising and encouraging Pomona, the goddess of fruit trees. It was carried out on Twelfth Night to ensure a good crop of apples in the coming year.

Wassail is a traditional winter celebration with a definite ritual and form to the festivities. The largest tree in the orchard, or village, is chosen for the site of the party and then pieces of toast are hung in the branches. This is done to attract robins to the tree as these are held to be the good spirits of the orchard. It not only attracts them, it also feeds them in the depth of winter. To ward off evil spirits, shots are fired through the branches of the trees and villagers scare them away by banging pots and pans and making as much noise as possible.

To wake the trees from their slumber and get them ready for the spring, the villagers beat a chosen tree with sticks in each orchard and shout out “Here’s to thee, old apple tree, That blooms well, bears well. Hats full, caps full, Three bushel bags full, An’ all under one tree. Wassail! Wassail!”

Cider is poured on the roots to keep the tree strong in the winter weather and feed it in the early spring. A toast to good health to one and all is given with Lambswool, a traditional mulled cider.

Wassail – Old English waes hael, literally means “be you healthy” and refers to both the salute Waes Hail and to the mulled cider drink wassail.

Our first Wassail on Twelfth Night was an incredible success. Have a look and see for yourself just how amazing it was. About 170 villagers and visitors took part and are still talking about what a great and somewhat wacky event it was.

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