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Updated: Feb 19, 2023

A Topsy-Turvy Festival

The Montol festival is an annual celebration held in Penzance Cornwall on the 21st of December to celebrate the winter solstice.

It is a revival of several midwinter customs both Pagan and Christian and incorporates some Christmas traditions we would all recognised and others, (unless you hail from the far west of Cornwall) you most definitely would not.

The festival is a community event that takes place over several days culminating in the Montol eve parade on the 21st when the Lord of Misrule is chosen and the chalking and the burning of the Cornish Yule log or ‘mock’ takes Place.

Traditionally ‘Mummers’ (players in various costume disguises) performed their plays or songs door to door.

Indeed, disguises are a major element of the event and those who take part and those who come to watch are encouraged to wear costumes.

None are so elaborate as those worn by the members of the various Guise Guilds who have evocative an fantastical names such as;

The Glorious Company of the Egyptian House or The Ancient Company of the Corn Market.

Should you attend Montol yourself, (and it’s not for the faint hearted) you can expect to see Guise dancers wearing traditional mock formal costumes in an attempt to ape those who would have once been considered amongst the upper echelons of society, judges, bishops and local dignitaries. These costumes were often worn by the poor of the community who took pleasure in mocking their betters, if only for a day.

Others look to a Pagan past and dress up as animals, bulls or horses. Some don deer hides and horns or animal masks.

There are others who celebrate their humble status, dressing in colourful ribbons or ‘tatters’ but no matter what the costume their faces are disguised with makeup, masks or sequinned-veils.

The Montol banner features the sun resplendent and promotes a topsy-turvy world, turned upside down.

It is a night for mischief and misrule and devil may care. Once experienced never to be forgotten.

Here is a video to show you.

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