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You don’t have to be a Wurzells fan to enjoy the Stoke Gabriel Wassail

For a family fun evening of Pagan celebration, what could be better than the Stoke Gabriel Wassail which takes place every January?
olds, Somerset or Devon are unlikely to be familiar with the ancient tradition of wassailing. This pagan fertility festival takes place on the eve of the 12th night, i.e. 5th January, or on the 17th January, according to whether you follow the old or new calendar.

There are lots of Wassailing events, and for Devon visitors and residents the Stoke Gabriel Wassail just has to be right up there with the best of them. Although you might think that is all a bit on the weird side, due to the Pagan origins of wassailing, but they are a great deal of fun. Often they are the first opportunity for local communities to get together after the Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Join in the Wassailing at Stoke Gabriel

Stoke Gabriel is a small village which can be found tucked away on the banks of the River Dart in South Devon. It is a wonderful village but something that makes it just that little bit more special is the attitude of the villagers. They have built up a thriving local community who all pitch in together when it comes to village life. The Stoke Gabriel Wassail proves this point perfectly.

Wassail Day is usually held on a Saturday so there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy not only the local village and wassailing ceremony but also the surrounding area. The event kicks off around 4:30 pm but you would be advised to arrive a little earlier.

There is basically only one country road into Stoke Gabriel and it will get very busy, not to mention the car parking spaces fill up very quickly. Why not get there around lunch time and stop for a bite to eat in one of the two village pubs, The Church House Inn or The Castle Inn? Families should be aware that it is only The Castle Inn that caters for children.

What to expect at the Stoke Gabriel Wassail

The Wassail itself is in fact a cider apple blessing that takes place in the community orchard and there is all sorts of entertainment laid on which will keep the whole family amused. Wassailers dress up in colourful robes like Morrismen. Some carry torches, drums, pots and pans to make a noise, and even shotguns in the good old days! They accompany a steaming vessel of hot beer or cider which is poured over the roots of the best or oldest tree in the orchard. This is the guardian of the orchard and it is wassailed to ensure a good harvest.

The hot food and cider bar are always well received by everyone and even though it is obviously hoped that it won’t be raining, the event generally goes ahead whatever the weather, so be prepared.

The Wassail Day usually comes to an end at around eight in the evening but most people will then retire to the pub to carry on their celebrations. There is a minimal charge to take part in the Wassail but it won’t exactly break the bank. The proceeds from the event go to the local school so it is definitely in aid of a worthy cause.

Stoke Gabriel History

If time permits during the day be sure to visit the churchyard in Stoke Gabriel where the famous yew tree can be found. It is said to be over 1000 years old and if you walk around the tree backwards three times, all of your dreams will come true. Make of that what you will but one thing is for sure, wassailing at Stoke Gabriel is a fun day which will bring a smile to your face and is a great way to look forward to the year ahead.

Have you enjoyed a glass of cider at the Stoke Gabriel Wassail? Or do you know of any similar events that are held to celebrate the apple or ensure a good harvest? We’d love you to share your experience with us and let us know what makes these events such a brilliant day out.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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