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Here We Come A-Wassailing
“Here We Come A-wassailing” (or Here We Come A-caroling) is a traditional English Christmas carol and New Year song, dating from at least the mid 19th century, but possibly much older. The old English wassail song refers to 'wassailing', or singing carols door to door wishing good health, while the a- is an archaic intensifying prefix; compare A-Hunting We Will Go and lyrics to The Twelve Days of Christmas (e.g., "Six geese a-laying").
Wassailing is a Medieval Christmastide English drinking ritual intended to ensure a good cider apple harvest the following year. The word wassail comes from Old English was hál, related to the Anglo-Saxon greeting wes þú hál , meaning "be you hale"—i.e., "be healthful" or "be healthy". Wassail is a hot, mulled punch often associated with Yuletide, drunk from a 'wassail bowl'. The earliest versions were warmed mead into which roasted crab apples were dropped and burst to create a drink called 'lambswool' drunk on Lammas day, still known in Shakespeare's time. Later, the drink evolved to become a mulled cider made with sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, topped with slices of toast as sops and drunk from a large communal bowl. Modern recipes begin with a base of wine, fruit juice or mulled ale, sometimes with brandy or sherry added. Apples or oranges are often added to the mix, and some recipes also call for beaten eggs to be tempered into the drink. Great bowls turned from wood, pottery or tin often had many handles for shared drinking and highly decorated lids; antique examples can still be found in traditional pubs.
As with most carols, there are several related
versions of the words. One version is presented below, based on the text
given in the