DRINKING TO THE APPLE-TREES ON TWELFTH-NIGHT'S-EVE
IN the eastern part of Cornwall, and in western Devonshire, it was the custom to take a milk-panful of cider, into which roasted apples had been broken, into the orchard This was placed as near the centre of the orchard as possible, and each person, taking a " clomben" cup of the drink, goes to different apple-trees, and addresses them as follows :--
Health to the good apple-tree;
Well to bear, pocketfuls, hatfuls,
Drinking part of the contents of the cup, the remainder, with the fragments of the roasted apples, is thrown at the tree, all the company shouting aloud. Another account tells us, "In certain parts of Devonshire, the farmer, attended by his workmen, goes to the orchard this evening; and there, encircling one of the best-bearing trees, they drink the following toast three times--
Here 's to thee, old apple-tree;
Hence thou mayst bud, and whence thou mayst blow,
And whence thou mayst bear apples enow !
Hats full caps full
Bushel, bushel-sacks full !
And my pockets full, too! Huzza !'
This done, they return to the house, tile doors of which they are sure to find bolted by the females, who, be the weather what it may, are inexorable to all entreaties to open them, till some one has guessed what is on the spit, which is generally some nice little thing difficult to be hit on, and is the reward of him who first names it. The doors are then thrown open, and the lucky clodpole receives the tit-bjt as his recompense. Some are so superstitious as to believe that if they neglect this custom, the trees will bear no apples that year." [a]
Christmas-eve was selected in some parts of England as the occasion for wishing health to the apple-tree. Apples were roasted on a string until they fell into a pan of spiced ale, placed to receive them. This drink was called lamb's-wool, and with it the trees were wassailed, as in Devonshire and Cornwall.
Herrick alludes to the custom :--
"Wassaile the trees, that they may beare
You many a plum, and many a peare;
For more or lease fruits they will bring,
And you do give them wassailing."
May not Shakespeare refer to this ?--
"Sometimes lurk I in a gossip's bowl,
In very likeness of a roasted crab;
And when she drinks, against her lips I bob,
And on her wither'd dew-lap pour the ale."
--Midsummer Night's Dream.
In some localities apples are blessed on St James's Day, July 25.
[a] Hone's "Every-Day Book."