Here We Come A-wassailing
The English carol Here We Come A-Wassailing describes an old Yuletide custom of neighborhood revelers asking manor owners for a drink of wassail, a warm alcoholic
beverage made with mulled cider or ale with spices. The Anglo-Saxon phrase "waes hael" means "good health," and the lyrics include a toast to the one's health in the new year:
Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.
Our wassail cup is made
Of the rosemary tree,
And so is your beer
Of the best barley.
The holiday custom of asking neighbors for drinks continued in colonial America, and variations of the tradition emerged from different cultures. Carols have also been sung to fruit trees to ensure a good harvest. Caroling replaced wassailing in some areas when mischief transpired, but recipes for the mulled holiday beverage continue to be shared.
One standard bottle of dry, red wine
2 cups cranberry juice
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 to 6 cinnamon sticks
1/3 cup brandy
Mix together all of the above (except brandy) in a large saucepan; heat until
bubbles start to form at edges, and then reduce heat. Simmer for about 10
minutes. Remove cinnamon sticks and add brandy; stir. Ladle into warmed
mugs and garnish with lemon and/or orange slice.
Sue Devick, Fullersburg Historic Foundation