One form the West Country and Jon says, “This wassail is traditionally sung on Twelfth Night apparently. I’m joined here by Sam Sweeney, Paul Sartin and Lucy Farrell (recorded on the Bellowhead tour bus!)” It’s one form the Watersons and can be found on their For Pence And Spicy Ale CD, which Mainly Norfolk covers here. Despite the title and the note on the Watersons’ version that this could be sung “at the orchard Man’s door or in front of the trees”, it has more of a feel of a house visit song, starting as it does with “…please to come down and let us all in.” The practice of wassailing the trees to ensure a bountiful harvest and to drive away evil spirits quite possibly involves more action and incantation than singing, although I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has witnessed it. Here’s a Wiki page on wassailing. I note the suggestion that the orchard wassailing took place on old Twefth Night or January 17th although once more I’d welcome some input. Twelfth Night in itself is one of those peculiarities of the festive season that seems to have its roots in a mixture of traditions and it’s worth a quick Wiki stop here as it ties back into the ideas of driving evil away and the whole wassailing, feasting and partying tradition. There’s more to it than just taking the decorations down.
As an aside, how many of you made it to the South Bank for New Year’s Eve? It was immense and I can only report that I had a great time, although was excessively enthusiastic in the jumping up and down stakes due to a more than ample sampling of the Hedonism ale. I felt like I’d run some sort of beer marathon the following day and my legs have only just unsiezed. What a great night though!
You can buy the January digital album now from all good download stores: