Friday, December 17, 2010

Gifts & Wishes: Wassail Song

Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum: Wassail Song


Caroling is a nice part of the holiday season. There is a knock at your door, and when you open it, you are greeted by a cluster of people singing seasonal songs. Often, there are a few parents and a great many more children among the singers. Nothing could be sweeter and more innocent, yes? But the tradition of caroling comes from wassailing, an activity that was, at various times, banned by the church.

Wassailing was not an activity for children. Usually a group of men would take a wassailing bowl, fill it with either ale or mulled hard cider, and go door to door. In exchange for their songs of good wishes for the new year and a sip from their bowl, the wassailers expected a treat or sometimes a payment. If they did not get it, they would sometimes curse the house of the person who did not compensate them, or even vandalize their house. Another wassailing tradition is to visit an apple orchard, and ritually wake the trees. This is done by making as much noise as possible, and then making an offering to the trees by pouring some cider from the wassailing bowl on the base of each tree. This was done to insure a good apple harvest. You can find more information on the wassailing traditions here.

The Wassail Song performed by Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum is a variation on the familiar Gloucester Wassail. Lewis and Rozum perform the song with some older and less known lyrics, and the arrangement emphasizes that this is an old song. But, old though it may be, Lewis and Rozum make it sound fresh.

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