Page 26 - Autumn Brilliance - We Wish You A Scary Christmas! Winter 2020
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 The height of wassailing could be said to have occurred during the 17th century, at a period when it was served from magnificent huge bowls, often made of a hard wood and mounted in silver or pewter, elevated on a stemmed foot and placed ceremoniously atop many a holiday table. Wassail bowls were traditionally turned from Lignum wood from South America. Many of the old English estates still prize their traditional wassail bowls. It was the aristocracy and landed gentry along with institutions like the guilds that would have possessed the grand vessels, often embellished with fine engine
The term wassailing (generally
pronounced “wass´-ul-ing” and
the only context in which that The Wassail Bowl pronunciation is acceptable) is
synonymous with carousing or
revelry (as is ascribed to King
Claudius in Shakespeare’s
Hamlet on the night that the
ghost of Hamlet’s father is seen).
But the origin of wassailing is a
time-honored tradition from the
British Isles where it was well
established by the 17th century.
Under the feudal system,
common folk would venture out
to the estate of their lords to
entreat them for food, drink, and
gifts during several festival times
during the year, including All
Hallow’s, Christmas, New Year’s
(or Hogmanay in Scotland), and
Twelfth Night; these customs
survive in the U.S. as trick-or-
treating and Christmas caroling.
Revelers would often dress in
bright outfits and outlandish
costumes, performing dances
and little dramas (or “mumming”)
for their lords—the better to
earn a reward! Many of these
performances became well
rehearsed and highly traditional.
During the colder months, it became popular amongst the landed gentry to “warm the blood” of their subjects via a bowl of piping-hot wassail.
To be fair, it should be said that
“wassail” became something of a generic term over time for a variety of hot drinks served to merry travelling singers, dancers, and good-natured drunks. There were many traditional hot punches made from mulled wine, cider, or ale such as Smoking Bishop (also Smoking Archbishop, Smoking Beadle, Smoking Cardinal, and Smoking Pope!), Negus, and many others.
 by John Gilbert. 1860

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