Kenai Performers Cliff Bouchard, Pat Lytle, Crista Hippchen, & Joel Fabiano go a wassailing at the Soldotna Medical Clinic
Caroling, or wassailing is an English tradition popularized in the last millennium as a salutation wishing health to a person during the holiday season and beginning of a new year when the weather was not the most health inspiring. Wassail gets its name from the Old English term “waes hael”, meaning “be well”. It was a Saxon custom that, at the start of each year, the lord of the manor would shout ‘waes hael’. The assembled crowd would reply ‘drinc hael’, meaning ‘drink and be healthy.’ As time went on, the tradition was carried on by people going from door to door, bearing good wishes and a wassail bowl of hot, spiced ale. In return people in the houses gave them drink, money and Christmas fayre which they believed would bring them good luck for the year to come.
An old tradition which is alive and well on the Kenai Peninsula thanks to the talent and inspiration of the Kenai Performers Victorian Carolers. According to Crista Hippchen, spokesperson for the group, the group revived the old practice four years ago as a fundraising effort to help the Kenai Performers get their own theatre. “It’s been growing every year as we’ve increased our exposure and marketing efforts, but it’s really all about the joy and smiles that it brings to the community as we sing their favorite carols in traditional four part harmony and in Victorian period costumes at their parties or places of business,” said Hippchen, following their healthy wishes for the patients and staff at the Soldotna Medical Clinic last week.
The period costumes worn by the quartet are not only nostalgic, but very practical for the Alaskan holiday season, “The traditional dressing in layers, top hats, and muffs, has done well thus far as we have sung in everything from sub-zero temperatures to rain showers this year, but of course the hot spiced cider here at the Soldotna Medical Clinic helps too,” added Pat Lytle, who sings alto for the group. “It’ fun to be in character and know that you are representing something from long ago that is still very meaningful in bringing cheer to people today,” said Joel Fabiano. The group still has a few weekday bookings available. For more information call Crista at 262-2825. All proceeds go to support the Kenai Performers.
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