Saturday, December 21, 2013


One interesting aspect of the Christmas season is that all of America is basically forced to switch over to Winter Music.  I embrace the notion and find it amusing that you can listen to a pop station and over the course of twenty minutes hear everything from hymns by the Vienna Boys Choir, through Bing Crosby, the big band era, the Trans Siberian Orchestra and finish up with Justin Beiber.

And it's often some very bad winter music.  Thank God I've only heard the dogs barking Jingle Bells and the Chipmunks once so far.  Another one that always drives me up a wall is My Favorite Things.  Ok, so it's a bit winter themed (... warm woolen mittens...sleigh bells... snowflakes and silver white winters....), but that's only 4 out of 14 things that are wintery which works out to be only 28% winter.  Heaven forbid we have to listen to daily it the other 72% of the year instead.

The radio stations also cram all the other winter songs into the Holiday Season.  This kicks off with Over The River and Through the Wood which started life as a Thanksgiving poem, celebrates the first snowfall with Frosty the Snowman and gallops on to the Skater's Waltz.   Many of these so called "Christmas" songs such as Winter Wonderland have no Christmas imagery at all and would do just as well in March in many parts of the country.  Although I admit that by March most of the wonder has worn off of winter.  Jingle Bells really ought to hold off until January or February when we have enough of a snow base to actually use a sleigh... but I digress.

Like I said, I embrace this plan.  After all, under the guise of Christmas, we're getting to enjoy many styles and artists who have faded from popularity.  In fact, we get to hear some really ancient songs and never give it a thought.  They are part and parcel of our traditions even though the traditions they speak of have fallen out of custom.   How many Americans do you think actually know when good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen? (the second day of Christmas) or when the Twelfth Day of Christmas is or why there's a partridge in the pear tree (there isn't really) or why there is more than one day of Christmas at all?

Sometimes you will even hear a really ancient song which has nothing to do with Christmas or winter.  Greensleeves sometimes get's some air time simply because the tune was reused for What Child is This? and that song has been around since 1580.  You may have realized somewhere in the last four paragraphs that I have been sitting in front of a computer for 8 hours a day for over a decade with the luxury of the internet and all of the knowledge of the world at my finger tips.  I can Google all day long and soak up pages of knowledge while I'm waiting impatiently for some report to run.

Well once in a while I find out something really interesting.  For instance:  the other day an old version of Wassail Wassail came on the radio.  Now I enjoy this song as well as Here We Come A Wassailing and I know the basics of Wassailing and it's tradition.  But this time as I read the history of wassail, one fact stood out for me.  Wassail is a cider based drink and...
In parts of Medieval Britain, a different sort of wassailing emerged: farmers wassailed their crops and animals to encourage fertility. An observer recorded, "They go into the Ox-house to the oxen with the Wassell-bowle and drink to their health." The practice continued into the eighteenth century, when farmers in the west of Britain toasted the good health of apple trees to promote an abundant crop the next year. Some placed cider-soaked bread in the branches to ward off evil spirits. In other locales, villagers splashed the trees with cider while firing guns or beating pots and pans. Sometimes they sang special songs:
Let every man take off his hat 
And shout out to th'old apple tree 
Old apple tree we wassail thee 
And hoping thou will bear.
Interesting.  When I mentioned it to my husband he suggested we try it.  We've done plenty of silly things.  Everyone knows our penchant for home made liquor.  And no one would find it too odd if we were to begin firing guns and beating pots and pans.  I do think it's at least time to take a gallon of cider out of the freezer and make some Wassail.

Here is a recipe that sounds pretty good: Recipe Link

 Happy Winter Solstice.  The days will be longer now!

1 comment:

  1. Up until I was a child, drinking of home made liquor while banging on pots and pans AND firing off guns was done at night under the guise of hazing newleyweds shortly after their honeymoon. The term for this bit of fun was "having a chivaree". We wassailed in the early winter but we had chivarees any time someone got married !