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Guise Dancing


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A calendar custom, apparently unique to Cornwall, which took place during the period between Christmas and Twelfth Night and lasted well into the 20th century in the Penzance area and possibly elsewhere. Descriptions vary considerably, but the core of the custom was young people from the villages around to visit the town dressed in all sorts of strange costume or fancy dress, with cross-dressing particularly popular, and many with blackened faces. Impromptu dances and games took place, and, in some descriptions, hard drinking and fighting. The custom is variously called ‘Goose’, ‘Geese’, or ‘Geeze Dancing’, and although this has caused some confusion it is clear that this reflects local pronunciations of ‘Guise’, a word which is used in various parts of the country for customs which involve dressing up or disguising (see guising). In some reports, the Guise Dancers performed the local mumming play, but it is most likely that this is a combination of what in most cases were two distinct customs.

Jenkin, 1934: 176–81;Wright and Lones, 1936: ii. 56–7;Hunt, 1881: 394.


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