The Kissing Bough (or the Kissing Ball)
Until the introduction of the Christmas tree in the middle of the nineteenth century, the kissing bough was the primary piece of decorative greenery in the English Christmas. It was formed in the shape of a double hoop with streamers going up to a central point and was made up of evergreen boughs, holly, ivy, apples, pears, ribbons and other ornaments along with lighted candles. A sprig of mistletoe was hung from its center. As the name implies, any lady who accidentally wanders under the kissing bough has to pay the price and allow herself to be kissed.
This is just one of the traditional hot drinks served in the wassail bowl. It is the toast floating on top that makes it look like a lamb's wool. The drink is made up of hot ale, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, eggs and roasted apples.
The word wassail evolves from the Anglo-Saxon term waes hael, which means be well or hale. The custom originated as a pagan agricultural festival. To increase the yield of apple orchards, the trees must be saluted in the winter. So during the twelve days of Christmas, a procession is made to visit selected trees from various orchards which are then either sprinkled with the wassail mixture, or a bottle of it broken against the trunk. The wassail mixture consists of mulled ale, cider or wine with apples or eggs in it.
The Yule Log
The tradition of the Yule log has very deep pagan roots, stemming from the Celts, Teutons, and Druids who burned the logs in winter ceremonies in celebration of the sun. The selection of the log was of the utmost importance and surrounded by ceremony. The largest end is placed into the hearth while the rest of the tree trunk sticks out in the room. It is lit from the remains of the previous year's log which has been carefully stored away. The burning of the log is assumed to bring good luck in the new year as well as protection from fire in the home where it is burned.
Well, now that you know where our traditions originated from, you may want to check out our library to see how many of them you can find in the stories and poems of the time.
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