If you're like me, you always wondered what "wassail" was and what "a' wassailng" meant. I was never satisfied with the answer "It's just like caroling." if it was, why did we change the name?
So I did some research and discovered that there's a reason not many people go wassailing anymore.
Wassailing was a little more violent than I imagined. It was a time when the poor felt justified in demanding goods from the rich. The rich felt obligated to satisfy the poor at Christmas-time, often as a means of "buying" their allegiance for another year. The poor would bring a large kettle or pot of wassail with them to the rich houses, sing a "wassailing" song, serve the drink, and expect payment from the wealthy. Things could get ugly quickly if the poor got violent or the rich refused their demands.
Wassailing gradually grew out of favor with the general public because of the violence surrounding it.
However, today there are still many people who make wassail. A few years ago, I had my very first cup of wassail, and it was delightful.
If you're looking for a new tradition, give this recipe a try.