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New Year - New Hope

Some traditions are embedded deeply into our national character, others have faded away into history and some hang around as oddities and would probably not be missed. Tradition is a broad concept with good and bad, but there are many traditions that are worth hanging onto and keeping alive. At Wych's Brew we like to learn of old, country traditions and, where possible, we like to incorporate them.

Cheshire is not a renowned heartland of cider making - that really belongs to parts of the southwest, particularly Herefordshire and Worcestershire. However, we have started making our own cider here and have a small orchard that is developing gradually. At this time of the year it is traditional is some parts of the country to take part in Wassailing. At Wych's Brew this is a celebration we have tried to introduce locally, if only to our own orchard.

Many people will have heard of the term wassailing but not really understand what it is about. In short there are two types of wassailing:

  1. Visiting people in their homes, singing, offering a drink from a wassail bowl (often mulled cider) and possibly giving gifts. This was supplanted by carol singing some time ago which has subsequently, largely vanished.

  2. Visiting orchards around Twelfth Night to bless them for the later harvest while making noise and reading a blessing.

This latter version survives in pockets around the countryside, especially where orchards are well established. In our little corner of Cheshire we have been bringing this alive by taking a torchlight parade around our trees and reading "The Threapwood Wassail" to chosen fruit trees. All the while we chase away bad spirits with shouts of "wassail" which broadly comes from Old English and means "good health". To accompany this we have a large glass wassail goblet that was especially made. We fill this with mulled cider and share it - very handy on chilly evenings in early January.

It is a fun tradition that the children like to take part in, and it gives us a reminder that our orchard needs care and attention all year round. We are hoping to extend this tradition to other local orchards in the future though there is no guarantee of this catching on.

The Threapwood Wassail

Come wind and snow

Come rain and sun

Bear a healthy crop

Before the year is done

Here's to thee

Good apple tree

Well to bear hat fulls

Bucket fulls and bottle fulls


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