The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #116913   Message #1361564
Posted By: GUEST,ClaireBear
20-Dec-04 - 11:09 AM
Thread Name: Folklore: Stupid Question but what is Wassail
Subject: RE: What is a wassail/wassailing?
I co-founded an annual wassail in Berkeley, California, in 1981, and that event is still riotously successful 24 years later. It's now run by Berkeley Morris, since both I and its other cofounder have moved away. It is a house-traveling party with between six and eight stops. Traveling is done by auto (with designated drivers, of course) as the houses are very widespread. Lots of food and drink (and morris dancing these days, but I suppose that can't be helped) at each house, ending at a "last house" that hosts until the wee small hours, with wassail pancakes in the morning for whoever is left. There's a song, in glorious 3-part harmony, that goes with the party and is never sung at any other time. It's sung at each house to gain entrance/allow the owners to douse the lights and pretend to have been called out of town. Annual attendance is 80ish.

My co-founder, together with his lovely wife, has been organizing an annual wassail -- same format -- for about five years now in Sebastopol, California. He wrote and harmonized another song for that. Apple Tree Morris, for which he and I are musicians, dance.

The intentional community where I live, near Santa Cruz, has just hosted its first event of the same sort, but we decided to call it a hooden instead of a wassail because, well, we live in a 'hood -- thankfully a rural 'hood, with lots of fruit trees. The party went to six houses, and because they're close together we did it on foot. After feeding us and quenching our great thirst, the owner of each home chose a tree to be blessed, whereupon we poured last year's cider on it and chanted an English tree blessing (mostly from Suffolk). I wrote a song with words loosely based on a hoodening song that Oysterband recorded decades ago, but no multi-part masterwork; my neighbors are all harmony-impaired. Also largely dancing-impaired, so we were a dance-free event this year. By next year, when the word spreads...well, we'll see.