New traditions at Woolsthorpe
Wassail! January brings out the wassailers at Woolsthorpe, to sing good health and much fruit to the trees in Isaac Newton's orchard.
On or around 17 January - Old Twelfth Night - communities in cider-producing places come out into their orchards to wassail the trees, with food and specially prepared wass-ale which they drink from a wooden cup, singing traditional songs so that the trees will produce a good harvest later in the year. This year's celebration at Woolsthorpe will be on Sunday 17 January at 12 noon. Please note this is a change of date to that originally advertised.
At Woolsthorpe we have taken up this old tradition with new words to an existing tune, cake and a little something to drink which is okay even for drivers.
This custom is a celebration of the fruit trees in the Woolsthorpe orchard, a sort of people's blessing where the trees are 'fed' with cake and wass-ale while the special Woolsthorpe wassailing song is sung.
The Woolsthorpe song only goes back as far as 2008, but wassailing is very much older than that. Wass-ail, or Ves-heil, meaning 'be you healthy', comes from Anglo-Saxon, and the custom is probably pre-Christian.