The word wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon greeting Wæs þu hæl, meaning “be in good health.” The correct response to the greeting is Drinc hæl. In the middle ages, the wassail was a reciprocal exchange between the feudal lords and their peasants as a form of recipient-initiated charitable giving, to be distinguished from begging. Later, in the twelfth century, Danish-speaking inhabitants of England turned was hail, and the reply drink hail, into a toast, adopted widely in England. From around the early 17th century, the toast became synonymous with Christmas celebrations.
This popular holiday carol has its musical origins in the mid-19th century. This intermediate arrangement is pattern-based with a contemporary classical diatonic parallel chord accompaniment followed by fast scale passages. The shift from compound to simple time is clearly marked and the basic pulse should remain the same.
Key: C major
Mood: happy, festive
Pedagogy: meter changes, fingering