Christmastime Favorite: How To Make Wassail Pt. 1

About 10 years ago, I found myself at a Christmas party at a local department/craft store with my mother, where they were serving this mystical drink known as “wassail”. It was some sort of mystery concoction made of apple cider, spices, and other fruits. Back then I was too young to drink hard cider, so plain old pure cider was my favorite thing to drink; I had pretty high expectations for this weird brew of fruit juices and spices I’d never heard of. To be frank, I got my shit rocked. Wassail was one of the greatest things I’d ever drunk and it had launched a sequence of events that guaranteed Christmas would never be the same after that.


I can’t believe how much that last sentence makes this sound like the opening monologue of some awful Disney channel high-school movie about Christmas vacation.




Wassail in its purest definition is just hot, spiced apple cider with a bunch of zany ingredients, served around Christmas, synonymous with the idea of “Wassailing”. You may have heard in the classic carol “Here We Come A-wassailing”, which is the practice of going from door to door singing Christmas carols, with the hope of either being invited in for a drink or at very least be given a cup of the home’s wassail drink. The tradition seems like it was heavily popularized through the classical Victorian Christmas era, though it goes back as far as the early 1000s before being associated with Christmas. Over the past few hundred years though, the concept wore off, especially in the U.S. where the idea of wassailing is pretty obscure.
Like seriously. If you really want a heavy dose of how paranoid and unfriendly American society has devolved into, go caroling in your neighborhood. See how freaked out your neighbors get, provided they actually answer the door.


The reason I say that my discovery of wassail changed Christmas for me relates to the fact that my historian brother-in-law, founder and procurator of Long Island History and Pub also became very interested in the idea of wassailing after I discovered the drink. He has an affinity for bizarre and weird-ass folk traditions that have been lost in time. After I began making my own version of wassail the drink ever year, it became a sort of tradition for me and my friends/family. I made it at various Christmas parties, and everyone enjoyed it. My brother-in-law particularly became interested in the history of wassail after, and did his own research on the the origins of wassailing. And he found some preeeetty interesting stuff to say the least. Like, oh, say, that this is an actual part of Welsh wassailing Christmas traditions.


OH GOD KILL IT WITH oh it’s already dead.

Yes, that’s a dead horse skull. No I’m not shitting you. Somewhere in the annals of time, someone stood up in Wales and said “Hey guys, when we go around singing our folk tunes around Christmas, we should totes dress up the skull of a large, dead farm animal and decorate as if it were an object.” Also, it’s called the “Mari Lwyd“. Needless to say, my aforementioned brother-in-law became fascinated by the tradition, bought his own horse skull, and, well, here we are. Now Long Island History and Pub gives nearly annual wassailing runs, incorporating a lot of this kind of batshit insane folklore into the mix. For more information, go check out their Facebook page.


Pictured: Papercraft version of Christmas night-terror tradition ‘Mari Lwyd’.

Incidentally, this Saturday LIHAP and the Village of Patchogue are teaming up to host one of the aforementioned wassailing tours around downtown Patchogue. Poor Couple’s Food Guide will be providing our own complementary wassail to everyone who attends! If you’re in or around the area this weekend, make sure to stop by and take part in the festivities! Click here to RSVP for the event and read more about it!


Stay tuned, in our next post later this week, we’ll go over how to make your very own wassail at home!


Posted on December 7, 2015, in Musings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I could be wrong but the origins of wassailing are more to do with getting a good cider apple harvest than Christmas based (although Christmas celebrations are more likely outside the cider producing counties of England) and the sheep skull would have been a paganesque tradition to ward off evil spirits that might ruin the fruit.

    • Ah yes, I should’ve made that clearer than I worded it originally. What I was getting at was that the modern concept of “wassailing” became popularized in the Victorian era when most of our classical Christmas archetypes came from, despite its pagan origins aimed at ritualizing apple harvests. Interesting thought about the Mari Lwyd, though it’s actually a horse skull, but admittedly I’m not as well-read as my brother in law on the subject. Thanks for the additional info!

  1. Pingback: Christmastime Favorite: How To Make Wassail Pt. 2 – Recipe | The Poor Couple's Food Guide


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