All hail the wassail

My home town of Leicester is renowned for its Midwinter Wassail Parade, which has taken place every December 21st since records began. Wassailants come out in their thousands, most of them to loot city centre stores as the police struggle to contain the masses, but some of them also to enjoy the costumes and characters.

Leading the parade every year are three of Leicester's most famous sons, Englebert Humptyback, the hunched, priapic lothario with skin the colour of beef, Lambert Daniels, the jovial fat man in hunting attire, and Elephant Boy, the crippled, jug-eared dwarf with the voice of John Hurt. They demand a cup of wassail from every house they stop at, and are legally allowed to beat the householder with hunks of mouldy Stilton if he or she refuses.

Not being in Leicester this year, and therefore missing out on all the festivities, we decided to host our own wassailing party. As everyone knows, wassail is traditionally made by mixing 15 cans of Strongbow, 2 bottles of cheap Canadian sherry, a cup of brandy, a cloved orange, 10 small apples, some spices and a fuckload of sugar in a giant marmite. After several hours on the hob it is sufficiently dangerous to drink.

Friends of many nationalities - Canadian, Newfoundlandic, Polish, German, Indonesian, Manx, even a Welshman - turned up to partake of the wassail, and all went home full of new-found wisdom. They learnt to retort "Drink hail!" when offered a cup of wassail, they learned that it is impossible to sing along to Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End) by the Darkness, and they learnt that too much apple-based goodness makes your brain explode.

They also learned that Kate Rusby's version of 'Here We Go A-Wassailing' is absolutely lovely:

Here we come a-wassailing

Among the leaves so green,

Here we come a-wand'ring

So fairly to be seen.
Here we come a-wand'ring

So fairly to be seen.

Love and joy come to you,

And to you our wassail, too,

And God bless you, and send you

A Happy New Year,

God send you a Happy New Year.



We are not daily beggars

That beg from door to door,

But we're the neighbours' children

That you have seen before.
We're the neighbours' children
That you have seen before.


Love and joy come to you,

And to you our wassail, too,

God bless you, and send you

A Happy New Year,

God send you a Happy New Year.



I have a little purse

It's made of leather skin;

I need a silver sixpence

To line it well within.
I need a silver sixpence

To line it well within.


Love and joy come to you,

And to you our wassail, too,

God bless you, and send you

A Happy New Year,

God send you a Happy New Year.



God bless the master of this house,

And bless the mistress too;

And all the little children

That round the table grew.
And all the little children

That round this table grew.


Love and joy come to you,

And to you our wassail, too,

God bless you, and send you

A Happy New Year,

God send you a Happy New Year.

Here we come a-wassailing

Among the leaves so green,

Here we come a-wand'ring

So fairly to be seen.
Here we come a-wand'ring

So fairly to be seen.

Love and joy come to you,

And to you our wassail, too,

And God bless you, and send you

A Happy New Year,

God send you a Happy New Year.

So until December 21st 2010, all I can say to you is "Wassail!" and hope that we may "Drink hail!" in the Leicester parade again next year.
0