By Rich Cuccagna | For NJ.com
LAWRENCE — It finally feels like winter. That calls for a party. Terhune Orchards will host its annual Wassailing Party on Sunday, Jan. 24 from 1-4 p.m. Whether in sun or snow, apple trees need to be wassailed every year.
Participants will gather among the 100 year-old trees In Terhune’s orchard to sing, chant, and make lots of noise under the bare tree branches to frighten away winter’s evil spirits so the apple trees will flourish in the spring. This practice follows a very long tradition from England in which many villages relied on the apple harvest. Knowing that the spring buds are on the trees in the winter, it was thought that creating a racket in winter would scare away bad sprits and ensure an excellent harvest in autumn. These villagers also thought they were scaring away harmful bugs that can injure the trees. With this winter’s weather being so unsettled, we are counting on the ancient tradition of wassailing to scare any lingering bugs in the orchard that usually get killed off in the cold.
Molly dancers dressed in traditional garb of black costumes play an important role in the wassailing festivities each year. A caller chants and calls out dance steps much like square dancing. The dancers jump and dance to flute music. The crowd is led in the reading of a chant and encouraged to join the Molly dancers in the fun. Pieces of bread are dipped in cider and hung from the tree limbs to give the benevolent spirits something to eat.