British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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DEC. 25.]                         CHRISTMAS DAY.                                   461
in the country, of which the following is a summary. He-says that the lord of misrule on being selected, takes twenty to sixty others, "lyke hymself," to act as his guard, who are decorated with ribbands and scarfs and bells on their legs. Thus, all things set in order, they have their hobby-horses, their dragons, and other antiques, together with the gaudie pipers and thunderyng drummers, and strike up the devill's dance withal. So they march to the church, invading it, evea though service be performing, with such a confused noyse that no man can hear his own voice. Then they adjourn to the churchyard, where booths are set up, and the rest of the day spent in dancing and drinking. The followers of " My Lord go about to collect money for this, giving in return " badges and cognizances " to wear in the hat: and do not scruple to insult, or even duck, such as will not contribute. But, adds Stubbes, another sort of fantasticall fooles are well pleased to bring all sorts of food and drink to furnish out the feast.—See Disraeli, Curiosities of Literature, 1858, vol. ii. p. 262; and Strutt's Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, p. 254.
Mummers.—These were amusements derived from the Saturnalia, and so called from the Danish Mumme, or Dutch Momme, disguise in a mask. Christmas was the grand scene of mumming, and some mummers were disguised like bears, others like unicorns, bringing presents. Those who could not procure masks rubbed their faces with soot, or painted them. In the Christmas mummeries the chief aim was to surprise by the oddity of the masques and singularity and splendour of the dresses. Everything was out of nature and propriety. They were often attended with an exhibition of gorgeous machinery,—Fosbroke's Encyclopaedia of Antiquities, 1840, p. 669; see Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, 1801, pp. 124, 189, 190 ; also N. & Q. 2nd S. vol. x. pp. 464, 465, vol. xi, p. 271, vol. xii. p. 407; 3rd S. vol. i. p. 66, vol. iv. p. 486.
Pantomime.—The Christmas pantomime or harlequinade is, in its present shape, essentially a British entertainment, and was first introduced into this country by a dancing master of Shrewsbury named Weaver in 1702. One of his pantomimes, entitled The Loves of Mars and Venus, met
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