The Bizarre Origins of Christmas Caroling

Editor
Back in the day, people went wassailing for a reason
christmas caroling
iStockPhoto

Christmas caroling — going door-to-door or standing on a corner singing lovely Christmas songs, ideally in Victorian garb — is today primarily thought of as a charming and harmless sign that Christmas is near. But in reality, it has a really interesting history; one that’s hinted at by a lesser-known word for caroling: wassailing.

25 Chain Restaurants That Will Be Open on Christmas

Wassail (pronounces WOSS-ul), another name for hot mulled cider, can trace the roots of its name to the Old Norse term ves heil and Old English was hál, meaning “be healthy!” The middle ages custom of “wassailing” involved peasants going to the homes of their feudal lords and receiving wassail and food in return for a blessing (inspiring songs including “Here We Come A-Wassailing” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”), which in turn inspired the tradition of going door to door singing Christmas carols.

It sounds innocent enough, but occasionally wassailing would devolve into bands of drunk men banging on the doors of wealthy townsfolk and demanding free food and drinks. 

Related
15 Things Midwesterners Eat on Christmas21 Slow Cooker Recipes for Christmas12 Signs You're a Little Too Obsessed With Christmas

Funny to think that when the earliest carolers sang “Now bring us some figgy pudding,” they actually meant it! It's just one of many weird Christmas traditions from around the world.