Wassailing generally takes place on the Twelfth Night, 5th January, however the more traditional still insist in celebrating it on ‘Old Twelvey’, or the 17th January, the correct date; before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar messed things up in 1752!

In the countryside, and in Charney, the wassailing, or blessing of the fruit trees, involves drinking and singing to the health of the trees in the hope that they will provide a bountiful harvest in the autumn. This ancient custom is still practised across the country today.

The celebrations vary from region to region, but generally involve a wassail King and Queen leading the assembled group of revellers, comprising the farmers, farm workers and general villagers, in a noisy procession from one orchard to the next. In each orchard the wassailers gather round the biggest and best tree, and as a gift to the tree spirits, the Queen places a piece of wassail soaked toast into its branches, accompanied by songs and musket fire!

The wassailers then move on to the next orchard; singing, shouting, and generally making as much noise as possible in order to both waken the sleeping tree spirits, and also to frighten off any evil demons that may be lurking in the branches.

Wassailing song

Wassail, Wassail, all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown,
Our cup it is made of the white maple tree,
With a wassailing bowl we will drink unto thee.

Now here’s to Dolly all with her long horn,
May God give our master a good crop of corn,
And a good crop of corn, that we may all see,
With a wassailing bowl we will drink unto thee.
Wassail, Wassail, all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown,
Our cup it is made of the white maple tree,
With a wassailing bowl we will drink unto thee.

And here’s to Dobbin all with his long tail,
May God send our master a good brew of ale,
And a good brew of ale, that we may all see,
With a wassailing bowl we will drink unto thee.
Wassail, Wassail, all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown,
Our cup it is made of the white maple tree,
With a wassailing bowl we will drink unto thee.

Come Butler, bring us a bowl of your best,
and we’ll hope that in heaven your soul it may rest,
But if you do bring us a bowl of your small,
Then down will go Butler, bowl and all.
Wassail, Wassail, all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown,
Our cup it is made of the white maple tree,
With a wassailing bowl we will drink unto thee.

See a video here.