New Year is one of those holidays that are anticipated by people of all ages from around the world. Slovenia Post has decided to make this holiday closer by issuing a special festive stamp that is an artistic interpretation of a well-known and popular subject, seasonal wassailers, frequently depicted by the painter Maksim Gaspari (1883–1980).
Three musicians go from house to house across the snow-covered landscape playing their tunes – a typical subject for Gaspari that found its way into many houses in Slovenia and abroad in the form of reproductions on popular Christmas and New Year's postcards. In the period in which Gaspari was painting these and similar figures, wassailing was of course already very different; even the musical ensembles were different from those imagined by the painter.
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Although the depiction of wassailers on the second New Year's stamp shows a girl with a songbook of New Year's songs, the costumes of the other three wassailers would appear to indicate that the group are celebrating the Epiphany, since they are wearing headgear typically associated with the Three Kings. Wassailing was a ceremonial procession around a given locality or district. Costumed groups would go from house to house singing seasonal songs.
The practice was widespread right up until the Second World War, after which it was almost entirely abandoned. Following independence in 1991 the custom began to be revived and is today very popular, particularly among young people. Originally several forms of carol-singing and wassailing were known between Christmas and St Florian's Day. In the 20th century, however, the tradition tended to be limited to the feast of the Epiphany. Experts claim that the origins of wassailing lie in medieval religious tradition. The first historical mention of the practice comes in 1575, courtesy of PrimožTrubar.