Apple wassailing is an ancient tradition, taking the form of a New Year procession. I was pleased to see it revived recently in Stoke-on-Trent. The apple and fruit trees of a district are each visited in turn. The men sing to them, toast their health in cider and the boys tap their trunks with whippy sticks in a sun-wise direction, in order to ‘wake up’ the trees and ‘turn them back toward life’. The wonders of digitisation have recently turned up two excellent free books on the topic, written by a Cambridge academic and published by Manchester University Press.
* J. Rendel Harris, “Origin and meaning of apple cults”, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 1919, Vol.5, Nos. 1-2, pages 29-74. Later published as a pamphlet by Manchester University Press and Longmans.
* J. Rendel Harris, The Masque of the Apple, Manchester University Press, 1920. This attempts to embody the traditions and beliefs in a series of historically accurate masques (short plays).