In the bleak mid-winter when there is a dearth of colour and cheer, folks of olde devised myriad activities and diversions to remedy the grim dreariness. One principle diversion, of course, being libation. And centered around the theme and practice of libation was the Wassail. Wassailing is often thought of in connection with Christmas and the door-to-door caroling that evolved from it. But a more ancient form of wassailing involves wintertime blessing rituals designed to ensure the following season’s harvest in cider orchards. Along with raising one’s spirits with the consumption of cider, the Wassail involves song, dance and theatre. There is also a very old tradition of dipping toast in cider and hanging it on the trees. Perhaps this is a gesture of kindness to help warm the cockles of overwintering birds who may eat the toast or perhaps there is something more esoteric at play.
Sea Cider Farm and Cider House recently held a marvelously diversionary and cockle-warming Wassail gathering at their orchard and cidery in Saanichton, BC to which we were invited for photographic documentation purposes. It was in the form of an open-house where those who dropped in were treated to delightful performances of Morris dancing and Mummery by The Quicksbottom Morris and Island Thyme Morris. Truffles Catering, Food For Thought, Ivan’s Truffles and Wannawafel were on hand to feed the masses and the drink was, of course, supplied by Sea Cider which hosted a tasting of their range of amazingly good ciders. Also Little Jumbos held a cocktail mixing demonstration up on the balcony.