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December 2012 - The Wassailing Tradition

December 2012 – The Wassailing Tradition
J. Martinez & Company - Coffee Merchants
December 4, 2012

Company Newsletter
December Newsletter

The Wassailing Tradition

“Wæs þu hæl,” she said as she handed Vortigern the cup of ale. Vortigern, the British High King was immediately smitten with Rowena, the legendary Saxon beauty. Despite being married already, he traded Kent to the Saxons for her hand in marriage. It was the mid-fifth century and this gave the Saxons their first significant foothold in Britain.

Rowena was the daughter of Hengist and both may be more legendary than real. Hengist, who can best be described as a Saxon warlord, had come to Britain and offered himself and the armies he could raise to help Vortigern vanquish his enemies. The Romans had pulled out of Britain leaving the Celts with no protection from the Germanic tribes of Northern Europe. Eventually the Anglo Saxons would push the Celts to the far corners of the Isle.

So what does this have to do with Wassail? Some say Rowen’s toast to Vortigern was the first “wassail”. The Old English toast (or Anglo Saxon, if you like) Wæs þu hæl, meaning “Be thou hale” eventually was shortened to “was hael”, or wassail.

The tradition of wassailing is older than Christmas. In fact, there are two traditions of wassailing. One is the forebear of the tradition of caroling. The peasants would call upon their lord’s manor and where he would bestow small gifts in return for the peasants’ good wishes, or wassail. The pre-Christmas aspect of the wassailing, or caroling, is seen in the secular nature of many of the carols we still sing today.


The other tradition was to ensure the health of the orchards. This involved “wassailing” the trees, especially the apple trees, pouring cider on the base of the tree, and generally making a lot of noise to scare away the evil spirits. Still practiced in parts of southeast England, it is now celebrated on 12th night, the 6th of January. The drink, wassail, may have derived from this tradition as it often incorporates cider.

As with many Christian holidays, the celebration of Christmas absorbed many older traditions.

The drink wassail is generally cider or ale based. It can also include eggs, making it similar to an egg nog, and it is always alcoholic. Here is a link to a recipes.

Coffee Gifts – For Friends or Clients

Coffee Gift Box with Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans

Our coffee packaging makes anyone receiving it realize that they indeed are holding a special coffee. But add our coffee to one of our elegant gift boxes and you have a truly special gift. Combined with hand-made chocolate truffles, fruit cake, pecans or chocolate covered coffee beans and your recipient will feel very special indeed.

We make corporate gift giving easy. Give us a list of your recipients and budget and we will help you choose the best combination. We can write up the gift cards and handle the logistics of getting your gifts out.