Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Wassail, Wassail

"And therein lies the beauty of wassail: more than just another nice-tasting drink, it’s part of a long (if largely forgotten) tradition of celebrating the life that winter can seem determined to snuff out. It’s a fragrant, warming concoction mixed in bulk and set out for sharing, all but demanding that you call in a crowd. There’s really no such thing as wassail for one."
—Speaking of seasonally appropriate drinks, the always excellent Rosie Schaap has a lovely piece in the Times on the history and mini-resurgence of Wassail, which reminds me of the tradition I grew up with, which is that after every Christmas Eve dinner we'd pass around a trophy-shaped goblet (a loving cup, per Wikipedia) filled with wassail and each drink for the duration of a short song (first "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," then "It's [Drinker's Name] Makes the World Go 'Round") until the booze was gone. I'm not sure what was in it exactly, but it definitely had alcohol, fruit, and something sparkly, although the recipe Rosie includes, by Julie Dowds of New York's Churchill tavern, sounds a little tastier if possibly less chant-friendly. 

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Edith, your anecdote makes me wonder what my life would be like if my parents hadn't been teetotaling squares while I was growing up. Giving alcohol to their pre-21 children would have been something akin to moral bankruptcy in their house. Even now, pushing 30, my mom gives me the side-eye when I tell her I'm meeting friends at a bar.

Oh parents.


@Emby Once an uncle gave me a taste of Bailey's at Christmas when I was like 10 and I STILL REMEMBER how scowly my mother's face went.

fondue with cheddar

@SarahP If you're going to let a young kid taste alcohol, it should be something they might find gross, like beer or wine or whiskey. Not Irish cream, which is yummy and probably the most kid-friendly alcoholic beverage in the world.


@Emby Me too!! A holiday at my in-laws' (borderline forcing you to have another glass of some wine or other random concoction someone's brought) is so, SO different from a holiday with my family. I've never seen either of my parents drink, not even a champagne toast at a wedding.




When I see or hear the word "wassail" I think of a Muppet Family Christmas and MY HEART IS WARM.

But I'm not a big fan of sweet drinks so real-life wassail would probably disappoint me.

The Attic Wife

@SarahP Just had to stop by and like this post. I thought I was the only person who remembered that movie!


Does anyone else now have that Wassail carol stuck in their heads? (Wassail, wassail all over the town, etc?) It's easily ten times better than having Jingle Bell Rock stuck in my head, though, so no complaints here.


@stonefruit No, but I have had "Good King Wenceslas" playing in my head since this Christmas season began. Edith.


@stonefruit Yep, it's there. Although the only thing I can remember is that first line and then "our ale it is brown." Off to Google!


@smidge Our toast it is white? (Why is your toast white, though.) Bowl made of the white maple tree, too.


@stonefruit Yes, thanks to madrigal-type nerdery in my youth. Wassail!

Lee Van Queef

@stonefruit The wassail song I have stuck in my head is, "Here we go a'wassailing among the trees so greeeeeen..." Is that a different one?


@stonefruit This reminds me that I used to live in a house with a doorbell that played tunes, and my landlord programmed "Here we come a-wassailing" before he left for the winter. Then we had a huge blizzard, lots of kids ringing the bell to ask if we needed the sidewalk shoveled, and the doorbell got stuck on the "and to you your wassail too!" line. After a few hours I finally figured out how to disconnect it. ASSAILED BY WASSAIL.


@Woman Laughing Alone With Boas different one, yes, but equally lodged in my ears now. LOVE AND JOY COME TO YOU, AND TO YOU YOUR WASSAIL TOO.



so, I changed my name when I got married & I swear at least 75% of the reason I did is that my maiden name looked very much like "Wassail" & was frequently mispronounced as such. (actually, I think it's technically supposed to be pronounced exactly that way, but my family said it differently.)

I cannot even TELL you how many times I was treated to a chorus of classmates belting that song at me at all times of the year.

...it's gotten to the point now where I can finally stand it again, & actually appreciate that some portion of my heritage is associated with wintertime boozery. but there was a lonnnnng period where I could. not. handle. it.


@stonefruit I do!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKpmg5DrpC0 !! a day when one can link to mst3k is a great day indeed

fondue with cheddar

@breccia Hooray! I love you.

fondue with cheddar

@breccia And because of you, I think I'm going to have to go home and watch my "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" DVD.



@fondue with cheddar
santa: "we've never disappointed the kids yet!"
joel: "except for the poor ones."

oh goodness i need to watch this again IMMEDIATELY

fondue with cheddar



My family never had any beautiful traditions like that, but once after Christmas dinner I grabbed my great-uncle's glass of scotch off the table--thinking it was my Coke--and took a big swig. It burned, I cried, and 20+ years later I still don't really like whiskey.

fondue with cheddar

@lindsayishere EEEWWWW. Drinking something gross when you're expecting something else is THE WORST.

One time my ex and I were at a restaurant ordering drinks at the bar while we waited for a table. And I should preface this by saying I hate beer. I ordered a root beer and he ordered his drink. The bartender put a mug of brown, foamy beverage in front of me, and I thought it was my root beer. I quickly took a swig without thinking and it was his Guinness. Not nearly as traumatic as your story, but still gross.


@lindsayishere Oh bless! Sympathy whiskey coughing here. I cannot imagine being a kid and taking a big gulp of SCOTCH of all things.


How nice! I wish passing a cup around and singing didn't make me think of Freaks.


fondue with cheddar


Why would you not want to think of Freaks?


Here's a question: How do you say wassail? I like to annoy my husband by pronouncing it was-SAIL, because he believes it to be pronounced WAH-sul. It comes up every year when we make my father-in-law's excellent wassail recipe.

Dances With Nerds

@Punk-assBookJockey I sent to an improv show where they wound up singing "Wassail Away," so I'm in the same pronounce the "sail" camp.

Tragically Ludicrous

I know it's not wassail, but can we talk about glühwein? I love glühwein SO MUCH. I had the worst hangover of my life with it (Munich Christmas markets are dangerous) and yet I was still incredibly excited to have it again. That's how much I love glühwein.

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