How to Make Wassail: Keeping Family Traditions Alive from Generation to Generation
Discover a heartwarming story behind Wassail, a traditional holiday drink, and the importance of preserving family traditions. Learn how to keep the spirit of storytelling alive and pass on cherished traditions to future generations. Wassail is perfect for holiday gatherings and Havdalah celebrations.
For the last few years, my mother would come over for the holidays with a bag full of whole cloves and cinnamon sticks to make a drink named Wassail. She’d walk in out front door so excited and say, “let’s make wassail! I brought all the ingredients over!” and every year our time together would get caught up in something else and we’d never get to it. Year after year, the ingredients would expire in my fridge or accumulate in my spice cabinet.
This year when we were in the kitchen cooking our Thanksgiving meal, I jokingly said, “Hey Mom, I have about six jars of cloves and cinnamon sticks we’ve collected over the years to make your wassail” and then I laughed. But she didn’t.
She stopped what she was doing, looked over at me and said, “you don’t remember Wassail, do you…”
Growing up Multigenerationally
I grew up on over a hundred acres of land. My family owned a golf-course for four generations and we all lived on the same property together. I grew up with my siblings in the same house that my mom grew up in on the same property my Grandpa and Great Grandpa built all with one tractor. The course would shut down every winter and we’d all have a few months off from work. Growing up as a child, it was an incredible blessing.
Because we had so much land, we also had a lot of toys. By that I mean, lots of four-wheelers, snowmobiles, dirtbikes, etc. On my grandmother’s lake was an enormous hill that we’d all go sled riding down with the neighborhood kids. I have hours and hours of home videos of my dad driving me around on a snowmobile through the driving range, bundled up like a stuffed penguin when I was only a few years old. We were always outside — somewhere, doing something. I look back on those years with very fond memories.
My mother’s favorite part was the snow. The back nine holes of our golf course were in the woods. She would take our dog for a walk through the back nine and it would be so, so silent. You couldn’t hear anything except the sound of your own footsteps walking on top of the snow. It was a nice change of pace to the constant hustle and bustle of the summer season. Snow, to us, brought stillness. Peace. Quiet. Rest.
Warming up with Wassail
Back to our conversation in the kitchen, I had no idea what my mother was referring to. The only memory I had of wassail was remembering her coming over year after year always wanting to make it, but never getting the chance to.
She continued to tell me that she used to make Wassail around the holidays every year. After playing outside in the snow, we would bring our frozen red-nosed faces back inside and we’d all warm up in front of the fireplace together. And what would warm our cold little hands? A warm mug of wassail.
That’s what made this drink so important to her. That’s her memory of drinking it. Wassail brings her back to being a young mom sitting with her children next to a warm fireplace watching the snowfall outside. Nothing can replace memories like that.
And I had no idea. My mom made a family tradition with her children, and it got lost somewhere in the middle of all of us growing up and leaving home. Because I was so young, I don’t have any memory of drinking wassail. As soon as she told me that story, I immediately understood why she would come over every year so happy to finally make it again.
Reviving Old Family Traditions
As a young mom with a family of my own now, I’m having so much fun coming up with our own traditions for every holiday. I’ve waited a very long time to have my own family! But hearing my mom’s story of making wassail reminded me of something that’s important to keep in mind when it comes to living multi-generationally. And if you’re a young parent reading this, it might be important for you to keep this in mind, too.
You were once someone’s baby.
Read that again.
It can be hard to remember that you’re still someone’s child when you’re in your thirties with a full-time job, paying for a mortgage, drinking black coffee and chasing around children from your own womb because you don’t feel like a son or a daughter. You’re now the husband, the wife, the mom or dad. But your mom – the woman who is now warmly referred to as Grandma, Bubbe, Mimi, etc. – remembers you as her baby, her child. And although Grandma is always on board to be a part of your new family tradition together, it’s good for both of you and your children to keep her traditions flowing on through you.
How to Keep the Scroll Rolling
So how do you carry a family tradition from one generation to the next?
Moses was a storyteller. He wrote the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Ezra, Malachi, Daniel; all prophetic storytellers. King David and his son, King Solomon wrote the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs. Actually, they spoke most of it while scribes wrote down their words. Luke not only wrote a Gospel, but he wrote Acts as well. Matthew, Mark, and John also wrote a Gospel. Do you know what other book John wrote? The Book of Revelation.
The first Gospel, Mark, was recorded in 70-85 A.D. That means, there was approximately 40 years in between the death and resurrection of Yeshua and the first Gospel being written down.
How were the Gospels preserved during those 40 years?
The Good News was preserved by storytelling.
You Have a Story to Tell
So if you’re a Grandparent feeling like your family traditions have been lost, be encouraged! All it takes is to sit down with your children and grandchildren and share your story the same way my Mom shared her story of Wassail with me.
And if you’re a new parent making new family traditions, please let me encourage you while new traditions are very special, don’t forget about the generations before you and try to find a simple way to incorporate your parent’s traditions into your lives and the lives of your children because at one time – you were once their baby.
Now, finally. Here’s how to make Wassail if that’s what you really came here for.
P.S. Wassail makes a delicious drink to bring to a Havdalah celebration. Why? Because it’s made with a few of the same spices included in the b’samim spice pouch! Shavua tov!
- 8 cups Apple Cider
- 3 cups Orange Juice
- 1 46oz can Pineapple Juice
- 4 Cinnamon Sticks
- 2 tsp Whole Cloves
- 1/4 tsp Ground Ginger
- 1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
- Orange slices
- In a large pot, whisk together the apple juice, orange juice and pineapple juice.
- Add cinnamon sticks and cloves
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer 30 minutes
- Serve warm and add an orange on top if desired
Add honey if you would like it sweeter. You can leave this drink inside a crock pot to keep warm while serving dinner or at a holiday party.
This drink totally tastes better and better after a few days in the fridge when all the flavors have time to mend together!