British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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Jan. 5.]                    eve of the epiphany.                            21
repair to the orchard, and there at the foot of one of the best-bearing apple-trees, drink the following toast three times repeated, discharging the fire-arms in conclusion:
" Here's to thee, old apple tree, Whence thou may'st bud, And whence thou may'st blow ! And whence thou may'st bear apples enow! Hats full! caps full! Bushel—bushel—sacks full! And my pockets full too! Huzza !"
The pitcher being emptied, they returned to the house, the doors of which they were certain to find bolted by the females ; who, however bad the weather might be, were inexorable to all entreaties to open them, till some one had divined what was on the spit. This was generally not easily thought of, and if edible was the reward of him whe first named it. The party were then admitted.—Kingsbridge and Salcombe Historically Depicted, 1819, p. 71. Vide Gent. Mag. 1791, vol.lxi. p. 403.
Brand, on the authority of a Cornishman, relates it also as a custom with the Devonshire people to go after supper into the orchard with a large milk-pan full of cider, having roasted apples pressed into it. Out of this each person in company takes what is called a dome —i.e. earthenware—cup, full of liquor, and standing under each of the more fruitful apple-trees, passing by those that are not good bearers, he addresses them in the following words:
" Health to thee, good apple tree, Well to bear pocket-fulls, hat-fulls, Peck-fulls, bushel bag-fulls ;
and then drinking up part of the contents, he throws the rest, with the fragments of the roasted apples, at the tree. At each cup, the company set up a shout.—Pop. Antiq. 1849, vol. i. p. 29.
Herrick thus alludes to this custom and the superstition attached to it:
"Wassail the trees, that they may bear You many a plum and many a pear; For more or less fruit th y will bring, As you do give them wassailing,''
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