Christmas Boys 1882
We had thought the practice of youths going about as Christmas mummers had died out, but it appears it has not, for there were no less than three different troupes in the town on Christmas Eve. The practice is a very old one, but there seems to have been some modifications introduced within the last few years, and the dresses &c., have been altered. Little Johnny Jack still recites the doggrell about carrying his wife and family on his back, and the “valiant soldier” still recites the same lines, but instead of wearing the old tinsel helmet and buckler, he had donned the cast off uniform of a militiaman. Several persons have made complaints of the local mummers, but we have seen nothing in their behaviour to object to, except that they are somewhat pressing in their demands for money.
Mummers started performances 2 weeks before Christmas and would go around the local public houses and hostelries every night until Christmas. They were very popular which is understandable, especially if we think about how little entertainment was available back in time and consider the fact that inhabitants hardly ever left the village. There would be several groups per county performing and visiting neighbouring villages. The performance was always a big attraction and at the end people gave some money.
Sources: IW Observer 30 December 1882
Image: Christmastide and its history
Article: Ann Barrett