Page 27 - Autumn Brilliance - We Wish You A Scary Christmas! Winter 2020
P. 27

  Over the centuries, a great deal of ceremony developed around the custom of drinking wassail. The bowl was carried into a room with a great fanfare, a traditional carol about the drink was sung, and finally, the steaming hot beverage was served. Carols to greet the wassail became as varied as the recipe for wassail itself. “The Wassail Carol,” “Here We Come A-Wassailing,” “Gloucestershire Wassail,” “The Somerset Wassail,” “The Wessel Cup Carol,” “Malpas Wassail,” and “The Gower Wassail” are just a few. In parts of South Wales in the United Kingdom, there is the tradition of the “Mari Lwyd” wassailing horse (which will be explained elsewhere in this issue).
Unfortunately over time, wassailing started to develop a less savory reputation as loopy revelers came staggering up to manors loudly demanding their wassail (if you try my recipe on the following page, you’ll see how deceptively intoxicating it is!). It eventually began to turn into an excuse for people to go begging round the houses and committing crimes. Under Oliver Cromwell and the Puritan movement, wassailing virtually disappeared along with Christmas itself. The old customs were condemned as pagan and blasphemous, and were outlawed. Charles Dickens and his tale “A Christmas Carol” almost single-handedly rescued the old holiday traditions from complete oblivion, many of the customs being lovingly described in the story.
You can find traditional wassail recipes of many different types online. I have included my own recipe here (Editor’s note: FOR ADULTS ONLY!). Be advised, not everybody loves this, and for those who do, more than one cup could knock them on their asses. What is it like? It is sweet, savory, creamy, and frothy with holiday spice. For me it is the quintessential taste of Yule. It is deceptively strong, kinda like somebody spiked the apple cobbler. We call it the Milk of Human Kindness (after a reference from my favorite film version of A Christmas Carol, “Scrooge” with Albert Finney, released in 1970).
   A Midnight Conversation by William Hogarth, circa 1732

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