The Official Tourism Website for Herefordshire

Wassailing Herefordshire

Enjoy lots of fun discovering and sharing of Herefordshire’s ancient tradition of Wassailing and get your new year off to a delightfully traditional Herefordshire start.

Herefordshire has over 9000 acres of apple orchards provided artisan ciders to the world including Westons Cider and Ty Gwyn Cider.

So it right that the county should participate in this ancient tradition of torch processions, blessing of trees and chanting. And usually followed by a hearty meal at the local pub!

Wassailing takes place in all the cider producing regions of England. Visiting orchards, reciting incantations and singing to the trees is seen by many as an important ritual that promotes a good harvest for the coming year.

Dating back to Anglo-Saxon times, Wassailing has now become associated with Christmas and is celebrated on Twelfth Night, the evening of the 5th January but some prefer tradition and choose ‘Old Twelvey Night’ which is January 17th.

‘Wassail’ means good health and was originally a drink of mulled ale, served in huge silver or pewter bowls and mixed with curdled cream, apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar. Small pieces of toast are often added and float on the top, its appearance leading some to call the drink ‘Lamb’s Wool’.

A torch procession takes place and toast soaked in cider is lifted up to the boughs of the apple tree to, as a gift to the tree. The biggest and the best tree can also be selected and cider poured onto its roots. An incantation is then recited and those present sing, shout and bang drums, pots, pans etc. to ensure their work is done before moving off to the next orchard.

In cider-producing regions such as Herefordshire, many still come together to drink and sing, passing a bowl of drink around with the greeting ‘Wassail’, or ‘Good Health or Be Well’ and it is hoped, scare off evil spirits!

Visit our What’s on pages for details of Wassailing events in Herefordshire and enjoy this uplifting of spirits as January embeds itself at the end of the Christmas festivities.