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Publication of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol"
"Come o'er the meadows with me, and play'
Put on your dress of red and gold,—
Summer is gone, and the days grow cold."
Today marks the publication of "A Christmas Carol, " Charles Dickens' yuletide ghost story of hope and redemption, originally published in London in 1843. A favorite celebratory beverage of Dickens himself, punch or wassail appears everywhere in his novels whenever a drop of good cheer is called for, most famously at the Cratchit's Christmas dinner in "A Christmas Carol" in the form of mulled gin and lemons! Wassailing originally referred to a traditional ceremony that involved singing and drinking to the health of cider apple trees on Twelfth Night in the hopes that they might better thrive. Later on, wassailing became more associated with traveling carol singers. In Victorian times, bands of beggars and orphans used to dance their way through the snowy streets of England, offering to sing good cheer and to tell good fortune if the householder would give them a drink from a communal "wassail bowl" or a penny or a pork pie or, or even just let them stand for a few minutes beside the warmth of the hearth. The wassail bowl itself was a hearty combination of hot ale or beer, apples, spices and mead, just alcoholic enough to warm tingling toes and fingers of the singers! 🥃 🍎 🍊 🍋 🥃 🎄
"Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink unto thee."
Wassail is a spiced ale or mulled wine punch often associated with Yuletide and drunk from a 'wassailing bowl' on Christmas or Twelfth Night celebrations. The earliest versions were warmed mead – ale brewed with honey – into which roasted crab apples were dropped and burst to create a drink called 'lambswool'.
The drink later evolved into a mulled cider made with sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, topped with slices of toast as sops and drunk from a large communal bowl. Wassail bowls with highly decorated lids were made from wood, pottery or tin and often had many handles for shared drinking.
Modern recipes for Christmas wassail begin with a base of wine, fruit juice or mulled ale, sometimes with brandy or sherry, apples or oranges, and possibly call for beaten eggs to be tempered into the drink.
By designer Carol A.L. Martin, this tartan suggests yuletide decorations and the colors of a spicy Christmas punch.
For a rich and spicy lambswool wassail recipe made with Madeira, click the punch bowl!