In last year’s Christmas post, “The Silent Partner”, mention was made of how we owe much of the way we celebrate Christmas to English customs, especially the Dickensian Christmas as captured by the novel A Christmas Carol. One of the more obscure of those English customs is that of wassailing, from which comes the hot, steamed beverage known as wassail: mulled apple cider spiked with brandy. In our family, it is usually imbibed on Christmas Eve just as all the candles in the home are lit following Christmas services.

The practice of wassailing developed in the cider-producing counties of England when the citizenry would move from one orchard to the next, singing and toasting the apple trees–bidding them be fruitful come Autumn. In at least one such county wassailing would coincide with Twelfth Night, the final evening of The Twelve Days of Christmas. In wassailing, a bowl of mulled drink topped with a sop (a piece of toast soaked in the beverage) was bore with the throng. The saturated toast would be hung from the boughs of the fruit trees (which leaves one to wonder whether this practice lies behind the the expression to toast). The drink itself was to be called wassail, and the ancient practice of wassailing gave rise to the popular Christmas carol “Here We Come A-Wassailing” and the less popular “Gloucestershire Wassail”

To aid in your wassailing this Christmas Season, what follows is our version of the hot, spiced cider.

Merry Christmas and Waes Haeil! [Old English for “Be in good health”]




2 quarts apple cider

1 pint cranberry juice

1/4 C. honey

1 cinnamon stick

1 t. whole cloves

1 t. whole allspice

1 small orange, quartered

1 C. brandy


(1) Combine apple cider and cranberry juice in a crock pot

(2) Place cloves and allspice in a spice bag and put the bag in the liquid

(3) Throw in the cinnamon stick and quartered orange

(4) Once the mixture has become hot, add the honey

(5) Continue to heat the mixture for at least two hours

(6) Prior to serving, stir in the brandy

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