04 Dec Stoke Gabriel Wassail – Blessing the Orchards!
Sloshing cider on the roots of the apple trees, dressed up children climbing up to hang toast soaked in cider from the branches, gun fire, singing, pagan themed fancy dress, and a general hubbub of laughter, music, and dancing – plus lots of cider drinking – that tells you what to expect at the Stoke Gabriel Wassail which happens on the nearest Saturday to the twelfth night after Christmas – this year – 20th January.
The pagan Wassailing ceremony is recorded in the 16th century – when it was commonly referred to as ‘Apple Howling’ – the ritual was carried out each year to bless the many orchards in and around Stoke Gabriel, to ward off evil spirits, and to ‘wake’ the trees from them winter slumbers.
Stoke Gabriel’s ‘Wassailing’ is led by a Master of Ceremonies dressed in a black tail coat, silvery epaulettes, yellow muffler, and top hat with a white scarf tied around it. With him is a young local ‘king’ and ‘queen’ who perform the evening rituals. The king wears a cap decorated in leaves, and the queen floating clothes and her hair decorated in ribbons and flowers. Upon the instruction of the MC they poor the cider over the roots, climb the tree and hang the cider soaked toast to feed the robins – loud gunfire follows together with cheers and singing ;-
- “Old apple tree we Wassail thee
- Here’s hoping thou will bear
- Hats full
- Caps full
- 3 Bushel bags full
- And little heaps under the stairs
- Hip Hip Hooray
- Hip Hip Hooray
- Hip Hip Hooray“
Everyone then moves on to the next tree where the ritual is repeated!
It’s a great fun evening with Morris Dancing, Face painting, Mummers players Food stalls and it all happens in the village Community Orchard/ Church Walk from 4.30pm onwards.
If our orchard at Aish is successfully ‘blessed’ then the ‘ apple juice’ will be in the Welcome Basket we provide to greet our guests upon their arrival !