It’s almost wassailing time! “Wait a minute,” you protest. “Didn’t we just do that at Christmas?” Ah, but there’s another wassailing tradition in the south of England that happens later in the winter: singing, reciting incantations, banging on drums and pans, shooting off muskets and generally making a racket to awaken the apple tree spirits and encourage blossoming for a good harvest. In some orchards, a Wassail King and Queen would lead the procession; the Queen would be lifted up into the branches to place sops of toast soaked in the previous year’s cider as offerings, while her retinue poured libations over the trees’ roots.
With the growing interest by American beverage consumers in hard cider, a revival of this English folk tradition (dating back to at least the 16th century, and probably much, much earlier) is spreading through our own orchard country – including the Hudson Valley. Last year Angry Orchard, located in Walden, celebrated the release of a new seasonal mulled brew called Wassail Wooden Sleeper by conducting tours of the grounds and leading the flower-crowned groups in appropriate lusty chants and songs. (Here’s a classic “Apple Tree Wassail” by the Watersons, if you want to learn one in advance: www.youtube.com/watch?v=vh7JbVKwJjk.)
The Apple Wassail returns on Saturday and Sunday, February 2 and 3, with tours departing at noon, 2 and 4 p.m. Admission to this special event costs $15 per person (21+, please). Space is limited, so guests are encouraged to reserve their spot in advance. For tickets and more information, visit https://bit.ly/2FEdSwq.
Apple Wassail, Saturday/Sunday, Feb. 2 & 3, Noon, 2 & 4 p.m., $15, Angry Orchard, 2241 Albany Post Rd., Walden, https://bit.ly/2FEdSwq