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Join in with the annual wassail

Procession of people in colourful clothing and playing instruments, led by an obby oss, while walking through a wintry field at Cotehele, Cornwall
A wassailing celebration at Cotehele, Cornwall | © National Trust Images/Mel Peters

Wassailing is an annual tradition of blessing orchards to ensure a good harvest for the year to come. This Anglo-Saxon celebration, involving music, song and dancing, traditionally took place on Twelfth Night. Nowadays, wassails are hosted between late December and February. Find a wassail event near you and learn more about this winter ritual.

Find a wassailing event

Take part in some dancing, clattering of pots and pans and traditional songs when you join in with an annual wassail at one of the places in our care. Follow the family-friendly wassail trail at Lyveden in Northamptonshire, bless the orchards at Morden Hall Park in London or join the wassail procession at Cotehele in Cornwall.

Musicians playing in courtyard to accompany troupe of dancers with bells and sticks
Dancing at a wassail at Barrington Court, Somerset | © National Trust Images/William Shaw

What happens at a wassail?

Wassailing ceremonies vary from region to region, but there are some consistencies to look out for:

  • A wassail usually starts with all the revellers gathering for a procession down to the orchard – possibly led by a wassail King or Queen.
  • Once gathered around the oldest tree, pieces of toast are placed in its branches to entice robins, believed to the guardians of the orchard.
  • Cider is poured around the roots of the tree, while pots and pans are clattered to ward off any evil spirits and wake the trees from their winter slumber.
  • The crowd will also serenade the tree with chants and traditional songs, often followed by Morris dancing.
  • No wassail would be complete without tasting the wassail drink, which is usually a local ale or cider blended with honey and spices.
Actors of the Illyria Theatre Company on stage during an outdoor theatre performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor at Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire

What's on

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