Wassailing? One explanation
|Wassailing is one of our most enduring Christmas
traditions, with reference to it made as early as the 1300s! It's
surprising that most of us think of it as a peculiar, if charming bit of
history. But its role in family and community togetherness and merriment is one
we could use today at least as much as our medieval ancestors. Like the best
traditions, friends - new or old - provide its meaning, no matter what
Like many lasting customs, wassailing is associated with an enchanting legend. A Saxon young woman named Rowena (Her beauty, of course, was unparalleled. But then we knew that, didnt we?) offered Prince Vortigen a bowl of wine while toasting him with the phrase, Waes hael, which is an Anglo-Saxon phrase meaning good health.
The story led to the tradition of shouting Wassail! before sipping from a cup. Then after taking a sip, the first person passes the cup to her neighbour. That person replies Drinkhail, and accepts the cup, taking a sip. He shouts Wassail! to the next person, and passes the cup along, giving a kiss to the recipient who says, Drinkhail!