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Catholic Recipe: Wassail Bowl


  • nutmeg
  • ginger root
  • 1 pound sugar
  • 4 glasses sherry
  • 3 slices lemon
  • 4 slices toast
  • 3 quarts warm beer
  • Details

  • Serves: 12
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty:
  • Cost: $$$$
  • For Ages: 21+
  • Origin: England

Far back in time goes the celebration of the first day of the New Year, back to the time of the Druids, when priests brought from the sacred wood mistletoe boughs to distribute to the people. In ancient Rome sacrifices were offered to Janus, the god for whom the month was named — a god with two faces, looking both into the past and into the future. Presents were exchanged on this day, and in time these became very elaborate indeed. Christian emperors allowed the pleasant custom to continue, but so many idolatrous rites remained attached to the celebration that at last the Church prohibited its members from observing it in any way.

Then when, some centuries later December 25th was fixed upon as the day of the Nativity of Christ, the first of January became a Christian feast day in honor of the Circumcision of Our Lord. But secular customs in connection with the beginning of the New Year continued to overshadow in many places the religious observance of the feast, and much revelry was connected with it. The Middle Ages eagerly seized upon any event that afforded a reasonable excuse for a banquet or feasting — coronations, great victories, and Church festivals. When on "Newyere Daie" in medieval England the country folk after copious repasts drank each other's health in cups of wassail, they afterwards went out to the orchards and "wassailed the trees."


Grate a little nutmeg and some ginger root over one pound of sugar and add one quart of the beer. Add the sherry and the lemon slices and finally the rest of the beer. Stir, taste, and add more sugar if necessary. Serve in a bowl and float the toast on top.

Recipe Source: Feast Day Cookbook by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger, David McKay Company, Inc., New York, 1951
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