Having not been able to make it to the Huon Valley Mid Winter Festival last year, I was really looking forward to it this year! So much so I went and bought weekend passes and promised to get dressed up for the occasion. Unlike its more famous and modern aesthetic cousin Dark Mofo, the Mid Winter Festival is an altogether more grounded affair, focusing on ancient pagan rituals and back to basics fun. It’s held at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed and the focus of the festival is warding off evil spirits and the darkness, so as to guarantee a bumper crop of apples the following season.
And what fun it was! I haven’t had so much fun in years, it was amazing. The costumes, the rituals, the atmosphere, the food, the cider, everything was just perfect.
It all kicked off Friday night with the Burning Man, the giant hay statue that is set alight by a flaming arrow. There was a rather long performance and story telling at the start, which didn’t quite keep the audience’s attention but I thought it was really cool and interesting. After that we made our way to get some more delicious food, and before we knew it, we were dancing like eejits to The Ramshackle Army, a punk band you just couldn’t help but bop along to.
The following day, it was time to do it all again for the main event, the Wassailing. This involves a procession of flaming torches gathered around a series of apple trees. The host will then encourage the crowd to sing the Wassailing lyrics before placing a piece of toast in the branches of each tree. The crowd shouts loudly and bangs pots and pans to scare off the evil spirits that might be living in the orchard. It’s fantastic, pagan fun. Once again we found ourselves drawn to the Blundstone Stage after the event to have a dance to The Ramshackle Army once more.
I had such a fun time at the Mid Winter Festival, it’s a credit to the organisers and a definite highlight on the cultural calender not just in the Huon Valley but all of Tasmania. Can’t wait to do it all again next year and raise our costume game to the next level too.