What is the Slindon wassail?
You my be unaware, but each year a celebration steeped in the rich history of Britain takes place in a little West-Sussex village just north of the A27.
It’s called the Slindon wassail – and here’s what it’s all about.
The village of Slindon’s wassail isn’t a unique idea.
Wassailing comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for good health and it encourages people to celebrate with each other in a fun – and noisy – way.
Wassails usually happen on the Twelfth Night following Christmas and at the celebration people go door to door in their village singing songs and sharing drinks and gifts.
The celebration is held to supposedly ward off bad spirits and ensure a good autumn harvest in the coming year.
At the wassail in Slindon, guests are encouraged to leave a wish on the village’s oldest tree and folk songs, dances and mummers’ plays are also enjoyed.
Mummers are actors in traditional and seasonal folk plays who often wear a mask in some form as they perform – hence the painted faces you’ve been puzzling over.
In the middle ages, wassailing was an opportunity for the poor to go to the houses of the rich to ask for aid without the risk of being accused of begging.
In exchange for the goodwill and songs of the poor, the rich owners of the house would give those visiting food and drink.
It is thought the Christmas carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” derives itself from the practice of wassailing – with the line asking for “figgy pudding” being in reference to some of the food the rich may have given to the poor in exchange for good tidings.