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Wassailing tradition returns to Swaffham

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Family Action’s ESCAPE Project is hosting a wassail ceremony again on January 10, to lift our spirits and bring people together for an excellent evening of old fashioned fun at Swaffham’s Community Allotment and Orchard, Swaefas Swale.

The event is free but donations towards food and drink are welcomed with any profits raised going back into the running of the community allotment and orchard project.

Wassailing is an age-old country tradition that involves blessing apple trees, particularly in cider orchards, to ensure a bountiful harvest of fruit in the coming year.

The 2019 Wassail festival at Swaffham
The 2019 Wassail festival at Swaffham

It is usually done on old twelfth night and includes a noisy procession through the orchard with flaming torches (to scare away anything nasty that might be lurking there), a warming fire, and verse, offering an appley beverage to the oldest tree present and hanging a bit of soggy toast in it! What a lovely way to cheer up a winter evening.

The fun starts at 4pm with mulled apple juice on arrival. The procession starts at 4.30pm followed by lighting the fire and a pot luck meal (bring a dish) at 6pm. There arestories, music and chatting around the fire from 7pm.

It is held at the ESCAPE Community Allotment, Tumbler Hill, Swaffham (closest postcode; PE37 7JG), moving into the Community Orchard, Swaefas Swales, on Orford Road Playing Field.

The event is organised by the Family Action charity's ESCAPE project
The event is organised by the Family Action charity's ESCAPE project

The ceremony will begin with the crowning of the Wassail king and queen, followed by a procession into the orchard led by flaming torches.

A spokesperson said: “We ask people to bring instruments including drums, pans and things to hit them with to accompany the procession. In the orchard, the trees will be blessed and everyone can gather around the fire. It is traditional to thank and send off the old year and bring in the new year; this is symbolised by the burning of the last year’s willow woman, created by ESCAPE Project participants. symbolised by the burning of last year’s giant willow woman.

“We will then share a ‘pot luck’ meal, so please bring a dish, followed by stories, music and whatever else people want to share around the fire. Please bring instruments, songs and stories.

“This is a proper community event, by the people for the people, so we are making our own entertainment! Torches and sturdy shoes are recommended as there is no lighting and the site can get quite muddy at this time of year.”

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