Here We Come

by Terri Potvin

When we moved to the small town of Noleben, we learned the hard way to give the carolers their wassail. I was a baby, so I don’t remember what happened our first night. My parents refuse to talk about it, but I understand. I haven’t had a sister since then.

My first memory of the Wassailers was when I was six. On Christmas Eve, my parents were slaving away on the stove. They bumped into one another in an awkward dance as they made wassail; a special drink made of apple cider, spices, and brandy. The mixture of apple and cinnamon enticed me to steal a sip, but mom slapped my hand away. It felt like more than just swatting away a forbidden elixir; it was life and death to her.

After they placed the steaming drink on a tray, my parents sat in the living room, watching the windows as they rubbed their clammy hands. My mind was bubbling with curiosity. Wondering why they protected the tray of food and drinkers like gold and why I was allowed to stay up past 9 PM. The only thing that pulled me away was the sudden screaming from our neighbor’s house, Mrs. Miser.

Mrs. Miser moved in not even a month ago and already gave off the air of foreboding doom. Maybe moving into the Victorian mansion made her feel out of reach, or perhaps it was her constant noise complaints, but no one wanted to be stuck in one place with the old bag. 

That was the only night I felt terrible for Mrs. Miser, and I didn’t even know what fate befell her yet.

When the clock turned 9:30 PM, the doorbell rang, and my parents quickly got up and headed to the door. I almost didn’t follow, but my dad dragged me with an iron grip.

The door was opened, and I felt a sudden chill as I saw the wassailers. Four women and three men stood together in long red-and-green capes. They looked disheveled and old, like they clawed their way out of history books. The women wore white tinsel fur around their hoods, and the men wore top hats with traces of withered mistletoe.

Despite being bundled up with layers of warm fur and wool, their skin was blue and black, icicles dripping from their noses and ears. Their ice-covered lips turned up in a gnarly swirl. Bloodshot eyes gawked at us, as if they were the only thing the wassailers could move without shattering into frostbitten pieces. Worse, their mouths were covered in wet blood, fresh and reeking of metal.

Then, they sang a song called “Here We Come A-Wassailing.”

Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green; Here we come a-wand’ring so fair to be seen!

I almost forgot how ghastly they looked. Their voices sounded like bells on a snowy Christmas night. I hardly remembered the words, for it felt like the Sugar Plum Fairy had swaddled me in her magical chorus and cradled me to sleep.

Call up the butler of this house, put on his golden ring, let him bring us up a glass of beer and better we shall sing.

My mom held out the tray of wassail as my dad ladled it from our punch bowl. Then, each wassailer presented their mossy wooden cups riddled with holes and weathered designs. I expected the wassail to leak, but it held firm.

They drank the wassail, and a miracle seemed to have also fallen into their mugs. Their faces glowed, and their eyes grew kinder, sincere in their merriment.

We have got a little purse of stretching leather skin; We want a little of your money to line it well within.

My mom had our change jar with her, and the wassailers presented their stretched leather wallet. She sprinkled in five dollars worth of change, and the wassailers snatched it back. I looked up again, and their clothes were suddenly tailored to befit royalty.

Bring us out a table and spread it with a cloth; Bring us out a mouldy cheese and some of your Christmas loaf.

Finally, my dad handed each wassailer a loaf of fruit cake and cheese. Each wassailer devoured it, showing off their gnarly red-stained teeth.

It was complete; they looked like angels once they finished their meal. Their cheeks were full and rosy red, and the blood on their lips seemed to evaporate.

Love and joy come to you and to you your wassail too; And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year and God send you a Happy New Year.

Then as quickly as they came, they bowed and exited our lawn. I followed the bloody footprints to Mrs. Miser’s house and witnessed the gruesome aftermath of the wassailers’ last visit. She was everywhere, on the fence post, the front awning, the broken down door. She stared at me from the mailbox.

I hum their song now as I stir a pot with my older, more experienced hands.

“When are the carolers gonna be here!?” my young daughter giggles and pulls on my robe.

I look up at the clock. 9:20 PM.


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