Wassailing is like impetigo- its really contagious, if a little less itchy. Several years ago there were only a handful going on, these days however, everyone seems to be doing it and quite right too. For those that don't know what it is, I shall enlighten you (get your cream ready.)
A wassail is a traditional pagan based celebration that takes place in the orchards of a cidermaker on old twelfth night (Jan 18th), to give thanks for a successful crop of apples. Cider is mulled and poured lovingly around the roots of the largest/oldest tree in the orchard before toast (that is soaked in cider) is placed into the tree for the Robins to enjoy for they are the traditional guardians of our orchards. The whole night is pretty much a chance to stick two fingers into the miserable midwinter night sky and say 'Fuck you, we've survived'. Its a party to be proud of, often outdoors in the sheeting, icy rain of January where you can get too easily pissed on really good cider and have freer kind of fun.
'Waes Hael' is a Saxon term meaning 'Good health' or 'Be healthy' which could very well be our forebears advice for dealing with the consequences of getting entirely twatted. Maybe even, this legacy of optimism is where we Brits get our 'Best of British' and 'stiff upper lip' from? And possibly our propensity for binge drinking.
There is alot of crap written about Wassails, particularly by those who have clearly never been to one - a quick online search will confirm that, so please don't believe everything you read.
This year I went to 3 in one weekend (I was working at 2 of them!) but my favorite was at West Croft Cider - a truly raucous affair held in both the spirit of our times and those of our most lively ancestors. A Viking would feel at home there, even without his ale. There were badgers, stags, hippies, punks, fashionistas and ravers all under the same roof in the cowshed, all receiving communion in the church of cider. Glorious. (We did eat bread and cider is technically apple wine.)
Anyway, I'll stop harping on about it and let you see for yourselves how much fun it is.