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Old December 5 2011, 04:54 AM   #36
Warped9
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Location: Brockville, Ontario, Canada
Re: Carolling and other defunct traditions?

Be glad one ye olde Christmas tradition has (thankfully) disappeared long ago. It stems from a time when there was very much a carnival like atmosphere to keeping Christmas which could be loud, boisterous and downright rude (even by old standards) to the point of potential violence.

It was called mumming, when bands of boys and young men of the "rough" (poor or working) class roved the streets and invited themselves into people's homes, usually the homes of well-to-do persons. In exchange for intruding into someone's home with loud singing and playacting these often disguised revellers expected servings of the house's best food and drink (usually alcohol). And they often couldn't be enticed or persuaded to leave until they had been satisfied. This practice was somewhat tolerated until what was considered acceptable behaviour changed in the early part of the 19th century.

Mumming actually predates the observance of Christmas, but it coincided with Christmas being observed in December and so the two became associated with each other. Society's upper classes and newly emerging middle class of the late 18th century were beginning to tire of this practice until they began to outlaw it in the early 19th. This coincided with changing the nature of Christmas celebration from being a public celebration out on the streets to a private celebration revolving around home and family.

Today it's hard to imagine such bizarre behaviour being tolerated as even remotely acceptable. It gives a whole new meaning to the term "home invasion." Something of a very general analogy of this practice (when taken to extremes as it sometimes could be) can be seen in Star Trek TOS' episode "The Return Of The Archons." I'm referring to the Red Hour when the docile population were allowed to blow off steam so to speak and be free of usual societal restraints. TOS' "festival" is an exaggerated fictional parallel of the once-a-year practice of mumming during the holiday season.

Mumming, of course, was an extreme example of holiday revelry. Exchanges of food and drink with wassailers was probably conducted more quietly and somewhat more civilly between land owners and business owners and their servants and employees. Today carollers are probably the only thing we have left remotely similar to what was practiced two centuries ago, or at least the most recognizable.
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