Wassailing in Herefordshire

Nearly 200 hardy souls turned up at Queenswood Country Park for our wassailing experience. It was a cold and dark January night with a hint of snow in the air!


We had been invited to the event by friends and on the day we all nearly chickened out. It was cold and dark and had been snowing earlier. But we aspire to being hardy country folk and wrapped up warm. First of all, there was hot mulled cider and a blazing fire. Because people started to gather, the drummers drummed and we huddled round the fire with our flaming torches.

The host explained that we would form a procession through the woods to the orchard and an ancient apple tree. The “Butler”, dressed in a rag cloak would lead the way, drumming all the time. We were given a heath and safety briefing which was like no other! “If you get lost, look for the light of the flames and follow the noise of the drums”.  An air of anticipation and excitement was palpable. 

Pagan Rituals

Whilst it was the first time wassailing had been done in this particular location, it is an ancient pagan and early Christian custom. The dictionary states it means “drink plentiful amounts of alcohol and enjoy oneself with others in a noisy, lively way”. To be fair, that’s pretty much what we did! We followed the Butler through the woods and once we got to the tree we were handed pieces of toast. We had to attach our toast to the tree and chant the chorus to the Butler’s song.

“Bring us hats full, cups full, bushel bags and sacks full. And my pockets full too. Huzzah Huzzah!” I felt slightly self conscious but I soon got into the spirit of it. 

Wildlife Trust

The event had been organised by the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and was a lot of fun. The children shook the rattles and drums they had made at the craft workshop earlier. We grown ups drank from the wassail cup. After we’d all processed around the tree at least once, we headed back to the fire and pizza van. Finally, safe in the knowledge that we’d done our bit and added something new to our memory banks!

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