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October 5, 2019

Word of the Day: Wassail

2 CQ

Word of the Day : December 25, 2016

wassail \WAH-sul\ verb


1 : to indulge in riotous drinking : carouse

2 : (dialectal, England) to sing carols from house to house at Christmas

3 : to drink to the health or thriving of


Every year at Christmastime the magazine publishes a recipe for a traditional drink that can be used to wassail one's friends, neighbors, and family members.

"In the middle of January we come into the orchards to wassail these trees, singing their praises, and driving evil spirits from their branches with screaming and gunshots." — Pete Brown, The Apple Orchard, 2016

Did You Know?

The salutation wassail, from the Old Norse toast ves heill ("be well"), has accompanied English toast-making since the 12th century. By the 14th century, wassail was being used for the drink itself, and it eventually came to be used especially of a hot drink (of wine, beer, or cider with spices, sugar, and usually baked apples) drunk around Christmastime. This beverage warmed the stomachs and hearts of many Christmas revelers and was often shared with Christmas carolers. In the 14th century the verb wassail also came to describe the carousing associated with indulgence in the drink; later, it was used of other activities associated with wassail and the holiday season, like caroling. 17th-century farmers added cattle and trees to the wassail tradition by drinking to their health or vitality during wintertime festivities.

Aired December 25, 2016

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