Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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cvii
Scotland and the north of England are not yet obsolete, and still have plays similar to those of the Cornish, which will presently be described. In­deed, the Christmas plays, in the few places where they yet exist, are very similar, implying therefore a common origin, though modern interpolations of an absurd description constantly occur.
Many of the old Christmas customs are pre­served in Cornwall to an extent not exceeded by any county in the kingdom. The higher orders, unfortunately, are gradually withdrawing their sanc­tion, so that in a few years there will scarcely be any traces left. In a county long famed for its hospitality, it may be imagined that when Christ­mas feasts prevailed throughout the country among people of wealth, the Cornish would at least equal any of their neighbours; and as an example may be stated, the establishment of John Carminow, whose family was of high repute in the county about the time of Henry the Eighth. Hals says, that" he kept open house for all comers and goers, drinkers, min-strells, dancers, and what not, during the Christmas time, and that his usual allowance of provision for those twelve days, were twelve fat bullocks, twenty Cornish bushels of wheat, (tu e. fifty Winchesters)* thirty-six sheep, with hogs, lambs, and fowls, of all sort, and drink made of wheat and oat-malt propor­tionable; for at that time barley-malt was little known or used in those parts." This hospitality has been continued to the present period, and is one of the Christmas customs prevalent among all classes.
Christmas plays, however puerile they seem at present, are of a remote origin, and supposed by many to be as old as the time of the Crusades, and
• It should be sixty Winchester.

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