Twelve Traditions of Christmas, Pt 6 – Wassailing and Mummers Plays

Hello and welcome to the final part of my Christmas traditions….Phew!

Here are a couple of traditions you might like to try, for a different experience over the Christmas period.


Wassail is a spicy drink which was originally made from mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, nuts, eggs and spices.  The modern version is called Lamb’s Wool and is a heated cider spiced with sugar, nutmeg and ginger.

Here is a recipe you might like to try.

The wassailing tradition has a few variations.  One variation, which is the most ancient way of wassailing, involves the blessing of apple trees and bees to ensure that the year yields a healthy crop.

Another variation of wassailing is that a bowl or cup is passed around a room, or from house to house, to spread good cheer amongst friends or communities.  It is believed that this form of wassailing originates from a Saxon custom where the lord of the manor would shout ‘waes hael’ (be well) to the assembled crowd who would then reply ‘drinc hael’ (drink and be healthy).

Whilst you are partaking in some wassail perhaps you could try singing the traditional wassailing song.  You can listen to the tune and read the lyrics here.

Mummers Plays

Mummers plays are thought to be an ancient form of folk play, still popular in some parts of Britain today. Although some sources state that they are a tradition from the 18th century.

The plays, comedic in genre, are based on the legend of St George and are mainly performed by male actors. Mostly performed as sketches, they consist of rhymed verse with song and dance also part of the performance.  The performers wear masks to increase the sense of mystery the plays evoke.  This is known as guising.

Characters in these plays can vary according to the region they are performed in, although the main character is a quack doctor.  Other characters include St George, Father Christmas, Robin Hood, Slasher, Hector and a Turkish Knight.  There are also an array of extra characters who are responsible for collecting money (or food and drink) from the audience.

It became traditional for performers to hand down their parts to others in their family once they retired, or if someone died.  Performers were usually from working class backgrounds and were usually a spontaneous act of celebration.

Mummers plays are still performed regularly.  To find out more about where the plays are performed or how you can get involved follow this link


About Maria Explores...

Blogger and Freelance Writer
This entry was posted in Customs and Traditions, Food and Drink, History and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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