December 18 – Wassail
“Wassail” comes from the Old Norse “ves heill” which means to be of good health. This saying evolved into the tradition of visiting neighbors on Christmas Eve and drinking to their health. Eventually the practice of wassailing degenerated into semi-rioting which included drunkenness, excessive gambling and even gunshots. In the early 1800s in New York, prominent citizens were very concerned about such practices. It was their desire to take Christmas off the streets and into the homes. One change was from “wassailing” and a wassail bowl containing alcoholic beverages, to “caroling” which was more likely rewarded with hot chocolate, cookies, and the like!