CAPTION: The event at Newcombe Farm on Dartmoor included a giant bonfire

New Year Wassail Asks for God’s Blessing on Dartmoor Farming Communities

Posted: 3rd January, 2023

The New Year was marked on Dartmoor with a community Wassail and Epiphany Carols event held on a working farm.

Epiphany takes place on 6 January and is the time when Christians remember the visit of the Wise Men to the infant Jesus.

The event on 1 January took place in a barn at Newcombe Farm, near Scorriton.

It was hosted by farmer Cyril Pearse, and organised by the Ashburton and Moorland Mission Community.

The event included an Epiphany-themed drama

There were carols, an Epiphany-themed comedy drama, readings, prayers and a talk from the Team Rector, the Rt Rev’d Mark Rylands.

It was well-attended by members of the community, despite heavy rain.

The Rev’d John Bennett, Vicar of Ilsington, led some Wassailing songs, with the help of a small folk band.

He said “Wassailing originates from an old Nordic greeting meaning ‘Be of good health’.

“This developed into New Year rituals of going into orchards to sing for a good fruit harvest or around houses to sing good health for the household.

A folk band led by Rev’d John Bennett, played songs including the Gloucester Wassail and Wassail Wassail

“In return the singers would expect something in return: perhaps some ‘figgy pudding’!

“To be honest the rituals could be fairly pagan and involved a fair bit of drinking from the ‘Wassailing Bowl’!

“On New Year’s Day we aimed to redeem the ritual as we gathered in a barn at Newcombe Farm. We sang some Wassailing songs in which we prayed for God’s blessing for the New Year on the communities of our Mission Community and upon the land.

“It was great to bring the church onto a working farm and to be alongside those who work the land.

“We were in a wonderful way claiming the promise that ‘If my people… will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7;14).”

After the service, mulled wine and cider were served and a huge bonfire beacon was lit for people to gather round in a nearby field.