I do have an apple tree, so I’ll have to get some bread toasted, have some nice cider to pour and drink, and make a lot of noise.
After the New Year’s champagne is drunk and the Christmas tree is set out on the curb, the holiday season feels emphatically over. But in many apple-growing regions, there’s still one last celebration in January. Instead of champagne, the drink is hard cider. And instead of decorating a chopped-down pine, revelers tromp into apple orchards to drink and encourage a good harvest.
Apple wassailing, which has origins in southeast and southwest England, features a procession to the best apple tree in the orchard. There, revelers sing to the tree, decorate it with slices of toast to feed good spirits (and birds), and shoot rifles to scare away demons. Christmas-carolers may be familiar with the term “wassail.” An old Anglo-Saxon term for “Be in good health,” it became shorthand for both carolling and a spiced hot drink, made with either ale or cider. While pouring cider around tree roots, everyone usually shares a fanciful bowl of wassail.
You can read more about these apple tree traditions at Atlas Obscura. They date back about 500 years, and no need to worry about having missed it:
Often, it’s celebrated on January 5, which is Twelfth Night, the last day of the Twelve Days of Christmas. But Twelfth Night used to be on January 17. When the British switched from the ancient Julian calendar to the Gregorian system, though, in 1752, many counties kept the tradition on the old date. (If you live in an apple-growing area, you can celebrate twice.)