In farming communities, people used to take a jug or large pan full of cider, sometimes with roasted apples floating in it, and pour the cider onto the roots of the apples trees. As they did this, they bashed pots and pans loudly, fired shotguns and shouted, “wassail!” This was supposed to drive the bad luck from the trees and ensure that there would be a good apple crop later in the year.
This tradition can be found still in some parts of East Cornwall. Each area of the country had its own special rhyme or song that was sung while pouring the cider. In East Cornwall, this was “Health to the good apple-tree; Well to bear, pocketfuls, hatfuls Peckfuls, bushel-bagfuls”.