The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Apple Howling

Source: Brand's Popular Antiquities Of Great Britain

W. Carew Hazlitt, Faith and Folklore: A Dictionary of National Beliefs, Superstitions and Popular Customs, Past and Current, With Their Classical and Foreign Analogues, Described and Illustrated.

Forming A New Edition of "The Popular Antiquities of Great Britain" By Brand and Ellis, Largely Extended, Corrected, Brought Down To The Present Time, and Now First Alphabetically Arranged.

In Two Volumes

London: Reeves and Turner, 1905.

Vol. 1, p. 12

In several counties the custom of apple-howling (or Yuling), to which Herrick refers in his "Hesperides," is still in observance. A troop of boys go round the orchards in Sussex, Devonshire, and other parts, and forming a ring about the trees, they repeat these doggerel lines:

"Stand fast root, bear well top.
Pray God send us a good howling crop;
Every twig, apples big:
Every bough, apples enou;
Hats full, caps full,
Full quarters sacks full."

Hasted says: "There is an odd custom used in these parts, about Keston and Wickham, in Rogation Week; at which time a number of young men meet together for the purpose, and with a most hideous noise run into the orchards, and incircling each tree, pronounce these words:

"Stand fast root: bear well top,
God send us a youling sop,
Every twig apple big.
Every bough apple enow."

For which incantation the confused rabble expect a gratuity in money or drink, which is no less welcome: but if they are disappointed of both, they with great solemnity anathematize the owners and trees with altogether as significant a curse. "It seems highly probable that this custom has arisen from the ancient one of the perambulation among the heathens, when they made prayers to the gods for the use and blessing of the fruits coming up, with thanksgiving for those of the preceding year: and as the heathens supplicated Eolus, god of the winds, for his favourable blasts, so in this custom they still retain his name with a very small variation; this ceremony is called Youling, and the word is often used in their invocations.

Comp. Twelfth Day, Wassail and Yule.

Editor's Note: Also see Firing At The Apple Trees. And compare Wassailing! and the following from William Hone, The Every Day Book: January 6 - Epiphany.

Also see Bullen's notes concerning wassailing of apple trees in Ceremonies For Christmas (quoting Herrick: "Wassail the trees, that they may bear...").

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