Christmas Traditions: Wassailing

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wand’ring
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.

Here we come a-what? Wassailing is the practice of going door-to-door singing Christmas carols until paid to go away and leave the occupants in peace. (The term also refers to the practice of singing to trees in apple orchards in cider-producing regions of England.) The word derives from the Anglo Saxon, pre-1066 toast, wæs þu hæl, “be thou hale” — i.e., “be in good health”, though it was not associated with Christianity at that time.
The practice as we know it has its roots in the middle ages, as an exchange between the lord of the manor and his peasants as a form of recipient initiated charitable giving, to be distinguished from This point is made in the song Here We Come A-Wassailing, when the wassailers inform the lord of the house that “we are not daily beggars that beg from door to door but we are friendly neighbors whom you have seen before.” The Lord would then give food and drink to the peasants in exchange for their blessing and goodwill, singing, “Love and joy come to you, And to you your wassail too; And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year”.

Wassail bowls, generally in the shape of goblets, have been preserved. The Worshipful Company of Grocers made very elaborate one in the seventeenth century, decorated with silver. It is so large that is must have passed around as a “loving cup” so that many members of the guild could drink from it. Then they wondered why everyone caught colds! Anyway, the drink was either punch, mulled wine or spicy ale. The larger, elaborate bowl below is from Wales.

 

If you’d like to whip up a batch of wassail for your own celebrations, Old Farmer’s Almanac has a good recipe here .

Happy New Year! Waes pu hael!

 

revised 12/30/14

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Christmas Traditions: Wierd Ornaments

Over the last decade or so, all sorts of businesses have tried to capitalize on the Christmas shopping rush by producing specialty ornaments, designed to appeal to only a segment of the population. It probably began with Hallmark and Disney, but the trend quickly grew to include the truly bizarre. A  few examples:

Merry Christmas! Let’s spend the day terrifying and slaughtering defenseless animals.

Yeah! Then we can mummify our victims and hang em on the tree each year!

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

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A little Christmas candy.

He sees you when you’re sleeping. Already caught that little sucker on the right.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

He’s the one who started the trend for Santa head ornaments.

Bring me the head of Santa Claus…….Hair keeps growing after death, right?

Ahh, the legend of the Christmas pickle….

 

Have  a holly, jolly roger.

Christmas Traditions: The Twelve Days

“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me….” Every time I hear this carol it makes me smile, for more than one reason. It brings back my days as a preschool teacher, when the class knew few of the lyrics other than “five gold rings”, which they would sing out at the top of their lungs at the appropriate time every stanza. It also reminds me of my son, who when little loved to sing “a partridge apitch a pear tree. ”

But here in America, Christmas really last only 2 days, so what’s this about 12?

Of course it has its roots in the Christmas story itself, when the three Magi took a journey of twelve days to find and visit the baby Jesus. This idea seems to have come to life in medieval Europe, where celebrations started on Christmas Eve and continued till the eve of Epiphany, the 5th of January. Epiphany itself, January 6th, is the day commemorating the arrival of the Magi. The Yule log was kept burning throughout this interval, and it was a bad omen if extinguished or allowed to go out. One of Shakespeare’s comedies is called Twelfth Night, which was a festive occasion involving serious revelry and elaborate disguises, frequently with men dressing as women and vice versa. A special cake baked with a bean inside was served, with the bean finder honored as King of Queen of the day and served by all, including his/her betters. Another manifestation was the choosing of  a Lord of Misrule to direct all the mayhem and hilarity.

What about the gifts in the carol? Who needs all those musicians and animals anyway? It is thought by some that the gifts are actually all from God, the”true Love” of the song, but this cannot be proved by existing evidence. But it’s interesting to think about it this way.

partridge = Jesus Christ

2 turtledoves = the Old and New Testaments

3 French hens = faith, hope and charity

4 calling birds = the four gospels

5 gold rings = the first 5 books of the Old Testament

6 geese alaying = the 6 days of creation

7 swans aswimming = the 7 sacraments

8 maids amilking = the 8 beatitudes

9 ladies dancing = the 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit

10 lords aleaping = the 10 Commandments

11 pipers piping = the 11 faithful apostles

12 drummers drumming = the 12 tenets of the Apostle’s Creed.

Christmas Traditions: The World’s Biggest Tree Image

Each year, on the evening of December 7th, the Umbrian town of Gubbio, Italy, lights up the outline of a giant Christmas tree on the slopes of Monte Ingino, which towers over the beautiful city. According to no less an authority than the Guinness Book of Records, it’s the biggest in the world, climbing the slope from the base in the old town center to the Basilica of Saint Ubaldo, Gubbio’s patron, a distance of 400 meters. The comet that lead the Magi to the Nativity crowns the tree.

As is the custom throughout Italy, Gubbio also displays Nativity scenes known as i presepi, devoting entire streets to the tableaux.

by G.Orsucci www.orsu.it