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A Christmas Carole

A Christmas Carole is not just a song, but a person who brings joy to strangers.

The North Pinellas Historical Museum has its own Christmas Carole.  Her name is Carole Jackson and she also serves as the President of the Friends of the East Lake Library, Inc.  Carole takes the time out of her busy schedule for the past several years to decorate the North Pinellas Historical Museum for Christmas.  She is also on the Board of Directors of the Palm Harbor Historical Society so she is a busy beaver.

The museum features a tree that is decorated in pure Victorian style.  Once a year during the holiday season, the museum hosts a get together for the public.  This year was no different.  During these get togethers, the museum’s volunteers try to be as accurate as possible when serving refreshments.  Volunteers baked traditional Christmas cookies and welcomed visitors to the beautifully decorated museum.  Last year, visitors went a-wassailling and this year the volunteers did something only slightly different.  So, what is a-wassailling? 

For those who do not know what a-wassailling is, it is associated with deep historical roots in the English/Scottish areas of Europe.  It is a common bowl called a wassail that is also known as a Loving Cup that is passed around the room where people share of its contents.  According to legend, the word wassail comes from an Old English idiom “Waes hael” that means “Be Well”.   In response to “Be Well” people would respond back with “Drink and be healthy”.

Back in the day, a-wassailling was not only a noun but a verb. People went a-wassailling by carrying the bowl which was filled with spice and apple laden hot ale from house to house wishing people well.  That is the premise for why the museum served wassail to its visitors. Imagine trying to do that now?  Walking through the streets with an alcoholic beverage without a stamp of approval from the FDA and knocking on strangers’ doors asking to partake of it? Oh my!  People will raise their eyebrows and the wasaillers will probably get a ticket!

At the museum, volunteers take out the beautiful punch bowl with its crystal cups and fill it up with wassail sans alcohol. The hot spices make the museum smell heavenly and with the backdrop of the Victorian Christmas tree, it feels as if one stepped back into time where life was simpler. One can find a small group of people assembled around the punch bowl, sharing stories, laughing and just being neighborly. The tradition of the wassail is a friendly custom that brings people together and during the holiday Open House at the museum, it has a special meaning that also has its roots in the roots of the original settlers of Palm Harbor.

Our Miss Carole works tirelessly during the holiday season which for the museum and Carole begins the day after Thanksgiving. The museum is dressed up for the season and it is with a heavy heart that many of us experience the emptiness of its rooms without Carole’s decoration savvy in the New Year. Her barrage of volunteers places the Christmas decorations away in the museum’s attic where they wait for next year’s holiday Open House. 

Here are the words to Here we Come A-wassailing.  Hope to see you a-wassailling next year at the museum!

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wassailing,
So fair to be seen:

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.

Did you know that the museum also sports a beautiful Victorian doll house?

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