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Wassail, Wassail all over Willesden
I recall singing The Gloucestershire Wassail when I was at school and always associated it with Christmas, so I was surprised to learn that the wassail tradition stretches beyond the Yuletide season and can be enjoyed after the traditional twelve days have passed. It stems from the apple producing counties of England where wassailing was intended to frighten off evil spirits that might prevent the cider apple trees from producing a healthy crop the following autumn. Most villages would select a Wassail King and Queen to lead a procession of singers through the orchards; the Queen would be lifted up to the boughs of trees where she would offer toast soaked in wassail to the tree spirits.
This is how they wassail in Carhampton in Devon:
Never mind the tree spirits, a wassail bowl packs quite a punch and is made from mulled cider flavoured with sugar and spices, although historical versions were often based on ale or mead.
There may be no orchards left in Willesden Green (there is no longer even a green), but the wassailers will be celebrating the local businesses for third consecutive year between Willesden Green tube station and Willesden Library. The Willesden Green Wassail, led and founded by Rachel Rose Reid and Transition Town Willesden, will culminate with apple cake washed down by a generous glug of the spicy cider drink.
Willesden Green Wassail (Image courtesy of their facebook page)