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A Toast To You

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Wes hál!

Be hale!

Be in good health!

From the Old Norse language ves heill to the Old English wes hál to the Modern English Be in good health!

This toast is to you on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

From wes hál came wassail, the drink, and the Anglo-Saxon tradition of wassailing–toasting to your good health.

There are many recipes for wassail–from mulled cider to mulled beer. Where winter celebrations and holidays are celebrated, you may find the wassail bowl–some form of a hot, spiced punch.

Sugar, ale, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon heated and served. Wes hál!


Here is a recipe for a wassil bowl–a hot apple cider punch for the whole family:


½ tablespoon (7 mL) whole cloves

3 cinnamon sticks

1½ tablespoons (22 mL) of chopped fresh ginger

1¾ cups of white sugar

1 quart water (1 liter)

1 quart (1 liter) orange juice (optional)

1 cup lemon juice (optional)

2 quarts (2 liter) of fresh apple cider


Wrap the clove, cinnamon sticks, and ginger in cheese cloth and tie with a string.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water and spice bag. Simmer and stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and place in the refrigerator overnight.

Reheat over a medium low flame stirring in the apple cider–add the orange juice and lemon juice for a slightly tart flavor. Do not boil. Serve warm. Enough for 24 servings.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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