This section is for Wassail Songs, information about wassailing and arrangements for local wassail singing in Stoke Gabriel or South Brent

The next Stoke Gabriel Wassail will be on Saturday 18 January 2020.


Wassail from the Anglo-Saxon / Old English wæs hæl, (‘be you hale’ / Good health’). As a greeting or toast, the correct response is ‘drinc hæl’ (drink and be healthy).

Wassailing is the remnant of an old pagan tradition which later became associated with carols and the Christian Christmas celebration sometime around the fifteenth century. It had almost died out and most modern wassailing is a revival of the tradition rather than evidence of its continuance.

There are lots of variations in the songs and the customs associated with wassail, but there are broadly three main traditions of wassailing:

  • ‘Apple Wassailing’ or ‘Orchard Wassail’: Participants bless the orchards and fruit trees especially the apple trees and toast the health of all including cattle, fields etc. In the western counties of Britain, the tradition grew up on Twelfth Night* of toasting the good health of the apple trees that would bear the crop from which next year's cider would be made. Pieces of bread soaked in cider were placed in the crooks of trees, guns were fired and pots and pans were banged to ward off evil spirits and the trees were toasted with special rhymes.
  • ‘Wassailing door to door’ or ‘Visiting Wassail’: celebrated by carollers going from house to house singing carols of good wishes for the coming year. It was a sign of good luck to have them visit. A Wassail Bowl may be taken door to door in the hope that it will be filled. In various traditions, wassail was given by either the carollers or the villagers, in some places to decrease stores of alcoholic cider before the tax man came for the year and in other places to give thanks for the good wishes given by the carollers.
  •  ‘Wassail in the Hall’: at feasts and other indoor parties. One custom was to pass a single Wassail Bowl or Wassail Cup around the table, each taking a sip before passing it on to the next guest.

* Old Twelfth Night is 17 January (Twelfth Night in the old (Julian) Calendar, as opposed to Twelfth Night/Feast of Epiphany/’Old Christmas Eve’ on 5-6 January in our modern (Gregorian) calendar. The modern western Gregorian calendar was introduced and replaced the Julian calendar in Catholic countries in 1582 but not until 1752 in the British Empire (and 1918 in Russia). There can be a difference of 11 days between dates in the two calendars although this varies between dates in the year and has been adjusted over the years.)

These are wassail songs from other sources or used in other years

This page contains information for the Wassail Singers about the Stoke Gabriel wassail

The next Stoke Gabriel Wassail will be on Saturday 19 January 2019

These are the songs from which the performance set for the 2019 Wassail will be chosen

2019  Wild Harmony