Traditional Tudor Wassail returns to Michelham Priory

A Traditional Tudor Wassail will return to Michelham Priory House & Gardens on Saturday 21 January.

Dancing, drumming, fire and feasting will all form part of proceedings as traditional experts transport you back 500 years to when Wassailing was common across Sussex.

Bring along a musical instrument, decorate yourself in foliage and feathers and join the torchlit procession to wake the apple trees from their slumber, scare away evil spirits and celebrate winter like the Tudors did.

The Traditional Tudor Wassail will take place on Saturday 21 January with two separate events on the same day. A family event will take place from 3pm to 5pm in the afternoon, followed by an adults-only Wassail from 6pm.

Step through the medieval gatehouse and be guided to a fire-filled courtyard before processing by torch to the historic orchard. A ceremony will see the trees blessed to encourage a bountiful harvest in the year to come.

The event will also include entertainment from Brighton Folk Choir, Blackpowder Morris and Gallyard Tudor Dancers.

Dan Cook, Property Manager at the site, said: “The traditional celebration of Wassail dates back centuries to when Michelham Priory was owned by Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell.

“As well as being an important tradition for those who rely on farming and nature for their living, it also provided an opportunity for communities to come together to mark the end of the festive period.

“We feel there’s no better way to kick off 2023 than by stepping through the gatehouse onto our medieval island for a traditional celebration with friends and family.”

What is a Wassail?

Wassailing is a Twelfth Night tradition, with pagan roots, practised in Britain for centuries.

The purpose is to encourage the spirits into ensuring a good harvest the following season.

A Wassail traditionally takes place on the twelfth night after Christmas. And it involves a visit to a nearby orchard for singing, dancing, drinking and general merrymaking.

Revellers typically visited local orchards and fruit trees, sang songs, made a hullabaloo – often by banging pots and pans. They were rewarded by the orchard’s grateful owner with a warm, spiced alcoholic drink from a communal wassail bowl or cup.

But what was the intention behind it? The ceremony was to ward off bad spirits from the orchards whilst also pleasing the spirits of the fruit trees, to ensure a bountiful crop of fruit in the year ahead.

Another form the wassailing tradition took involved groups of revellers going from house to house to drink toasts and wish good health for the year ahead on the dwellers within.

The word ‘wassail’ is believed to be derived from the Old English ‘was hál’, meaning ‘be hale’ or ‘good health’.

Wassail in Sussex – how do I book tickets?

This will be the second year a Wassail has been held at Michelham Priory, a beautiful seven-acre historic site near Hailsham.

Pre-booking is essential with no tickets available on the evening.

Book tickets priced at £15 for adults and £5 for children. Family tickets for two adults and up to four children are £40 and one adult and up to three children are £25.

The on-site café will be open throughout serving hot and cold refreshments, including spiced apple juice and cider (alcohol only available at the adults-only event).

BOOK TICKETS FOR THE FAMILY EVENT – 3PM Book tickets for the adult event – 6pm