Wassail, Wassail!

I learned my first drinking song when I was in 6th grade. 

Is that bad??

I was a “Lady” at the time.   Chuck Purzner was my “Lord.”  We were in the middle of a Medieval Christmas program.  [Does this surprise you?  And do you think this Lady gig is better – or worse – than being a robot in a sci-fi Christmas program??  And as a Christmas gift to ourselves, we’ll pause right here, right now, and address the elephant in the room by saying that every grade school Christmas program is horrific.  Completely horrific.  This has been the case since Time Immemorial.  And yes, that’s a phrase.  Look it up.  It means ‘since before anyone can remember.’   I bet even NOAH’S kids were giving bad Christmas programs back in the day; especially that one year they had all the rain.  Well and no real Christmas to speak of because Jesus hadn’t been born yet.  But whatevs.  You get the point.]

Anywhoooo…back to me.  Hey, LAAAADY!

Matthew Torpey had just wrapped up his stint as Good King Wenceslas, wearing a cape and trudging across the stage re-enacting the song of the same name.  ‘Cept instead of giving off a Father-Christmas-does-good sort of vibe, Matthew made it look like he was from mimeville.  And he spent all twelve stanzas of the song perfecting his walking-into-the-wind act.

After which a short 6th grade girl dressed in a tunic and tights stumbled on to the stage carrying a big punch bowl.  (By way of explanation on how we all got our awesome Christmas program parts: she was short, so she got to be a page.  I was tall, one of the three tallest girls in the class, and thus got to be one of the three ladies.  We were paired with the three tallest lords in the class.  How you like dem apples?  No mad skillzzz involved.  Just height.  Or lack thereof.  Hey LAAAADY!)

Once the page stumbled on to the stage, that was my cue to give my big line, “Pray, Dear Page, tell what brims thy wassail bowl?”

At which point we all started singing the worst, most nonsensical Medieval drinking song of all time:

Wassail, wassail, all over the town!*
Our bread it is white, and our ale it is brown.
Our bowl, it is made of the green maple tree.
In the wassail bowl, we’ll drink unto thee.
Here’s to the ox, and to his right eye*
Pray God send our master a good Christmas pie
A good Christmas pie ‘ere I did see
In the Wassail Bowl we’ll drink unto thee
I still don’t really know what this song means.  But the mystified 6th grader in me knows that as the song goes on, you’re supposed to get rowdier and rowdier.  Perhaps even consider clanking your mugs together if the spirit so moves you.  And for shizzle, be of good cheer.  While you’re doing that?  Grown up me will be over here.  In the Wassail Bowl.  Drinking unto thee.

Cheers!  And Merry Christmas! 


*These are the words I learned thirty-five years ago.  But I recognize there are many variations of the song.  None of which really make any sense.  (I mean, come on!  Here’s to the ox and to his right eye?  What, exactly, are we doing with the ox’s right eye?  Are we shooting dice with it?  Or…gulp…EATING it for good luck?!?  Either way, I’m out.)  But if you do know different words?  Then you should totally get your OWN blog and tell us about YOUR Sixth Grade Christmas program.  Until then, you know where you can put your good Christmas pie.     

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