Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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XV
sents of robes, &c. as marks of his royal favour; after which they proceeded to business.*
Polydore Virgil says,f that it was the custom of the English, as early as the reign of Henry the Second (about 1170) to celebrate their Christmas with plays, masques, and magnificent spectacles, to­gether with games at dice and dancing; he derives many of the particulars from the Roman Saturnalia, and considers the Christmas Prince, or Lord of Mis­rule, a personage almost peculiar to this country. From this time mummeries J and disguisings, with plays and pageants, appear to have been introduced among the diversions of the king and nobles at Christmas ; but they were probably in vogue among the inferior orders at an earlier period, though of a description rude as their habits and poor as their means. They are supposed to have been derived from the custom of the Heathens during some of their festivals, on the Kalends of January, to go about in disguises as wild beasts and cattle, and the sexes also exchanging apparel : a practice pro­ductive of many abuses, and much opposed by the clergy, when they found many of the early Chris-
* Henry's History of England, vol. vi. p. 13. In some of the romances of the age may also be found references to this custom, as, for example, in Richard Coer de Lion, (written prior to 1300,) line 1773 & seq.
Christmas is a time full honest;
Kyng Richard it honoured with gret feste.
All his clerks and barouns
Were set in their pavylouns,
And served with grete plente
Of mete and drink and each dainte\
Weber s Metrical Romances, vol. ii. p. 70.
f Hist. Angl. lib. 13.^
2 The word mumm is said to be derived from the Danish; to disguise with a mask.

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