Evil spirits were chased off by a crowd of more than 100 at Steyning Community Orchard’s annual wassail.
Mythago Morris, a team of dancers, musicians and storytellers, led the traditional ceremony at the Memorial Playing Field and at Steyning Cricket Club on Saturday.
Bob Platt, from Steyning Community Orchard, said: “They started the evening with a series of dances associated with wassailing and its associated rituals accompanied by their musicians playing drums, accordions and a fiddle.
“Then the whole crowd, adults and children – at least 100 people, it was hard to tell in the dark – set off across the Memorial Playing Field to the orchard, led by Mythago to the ominous beat of their drum.
“ It was rather muddy but the rain held off. We gathered around one of the oldest trees to begin the ceremony. This had been decorated by Roger Brown with bunting and lights.
“The objective is to rouse the trees from their winter sleep and chase off any evil spirits that might be lurking about. The former is achieved by a hanging pieces of toast soaked in cider from the tree and the latter by everyone taking part in a dance around the tree and then running off making a great deal of noise by yelling and screaming, banging drums, pans, shaking rattles and blowing horns.
“Everyone, especially the children seemed to enjoy this immensely.
“Then, starting to feel the cold, we made our way back to Steyning Cricket Club, where we were able to warm ourselves up with cups of hot soup prepared by Ronnie Reed and others with bread and rolls provided free by the Steyning Co-op. Then the party began with live music provided by Pete Varkala and friends and the Cheer-up Mollies.
“The wassail is a good way to start the year, and now we get back to work. We have maintenance to do on the orchard and on Saturday, March 3, we will be planting more trees in the Steyning Downland Scheme Wild Play Area and Orchard.”