Farm News | February 5, 2024
The First Wassailing of the Community Orchard
We gathered to celebrate the young trees, and wish good things for them, and for all, for the coming year…
What is Wassailing?
Apple Wassailing is is an old way to celebrate orchards and wish for a good harvest. The origin stories vary a bit, but it seems the word ‘Wassail’ comes from the old Norse ves heill – meaning ‘be in good health’ which was said as a greeting or parting, like ‘farewell’. Then it became associated with drinking (like many things in northern European culture!) and raising a toast to health, like the Gaelic slàinte mhath. From there, it was a natural next step for landworkers to toast the health of the orchards – and have a community celebration.
According to tradition, you should toast and make offerings to the trees, and sing, dance and make enough noise to wake the trees and scare off any evil spirits who might be lurking in the orchard.
Why Wassail Now?
It doesn’t really matter whether you believe in malicious spirits or not. Story and metaphor motivate humans more than cold facts (and that’s a stone cold fact!). The old lore inspired communities to take care of the orchards, and, bad spirits or not, we have real dangers here and now to banish, like apathy, hopelessness, and disconnection. Wassailing guards against these – and always has done. It warms the heart, brings people together, and gives importance to the trees.
We tip our hats to the wisdom in the old ways of stewarding the land, and this is not nostalgia. It is for now – this is a living tradition, for the benefit of life here and now. And it belongs to everyone who is here now and wants to be part of it.
The 2024 Orchard Wassailing
The Community Orchard Group organised a brilliant first Wassailing for the orchard – with handmade noise-makers from windfall branches, greenery to adorn all comers, hot apple juice, poetry, songs and music. Orchard Group member Johanna gave us some history. Seraph Davidson led everyone in Wassailing songs, accompanied by musicians Shea Martin and Domi. Orchard Group member Mark read a poem of his own, first written for St Baldred’s Orchard in Tyninghame. And everyone was invited to set an intention for the year ahead, to write these onto tags, and tie them to the tree guards. These were our offerings and our well-wishes.
There was a lovely mix of farm workers, volunteers and new visitors, creating a happy, friendly atmosphere, reflecting the way our orchard represents the 3 core themes of the farm: community, food growing and biodiversity
(Julie – Orchard Group member)
Thank you to everyone who came along and participated. It was a real joy, gathering and singing all together, with the incredible views and our young trees all around us.
We wish our trees good health, Wassail, slàinte mhath, and, in time, a good harvest. Thank you to the Community Orchard Group for doing such a great job with the Wassailing and caring for the orchard. If you’d like to get involved with the orchard, join a session or help plant some trees contact firstname.lastname@example.org or come along to our next orchard session, this Saturday 10th of Feb, 11-1 when we’ll be pruning the trees.
Here are some more photos from the day.