Montol Festival Penzance

21 December 2018
  • Overview

Montol is a Penzance based Midwinter festival which celebrates traditional “Old Christmas” through a number of Cornish customs, which would have been held over the twelve days of Christmas. It’s main aspect is that of guise (pronounced “geeze’) dancing, which was not always dancing, but plays, skits, songs and satire. The festival features a number of mischievous costumed groups, known as guilds, who roam from pub to pub performing their acts and little pranks on the other guilds. Disguise is the most important element of Montol, when these groups roamed the streets and establishments, it was part of the fun to try and guess who was who, so some people would pad out their costumes, where form changing and distorted clothes, animal hides, and masks or paint or soot their faces and cross-dress, whilst also changing their voices to make the game harder. A Lord of Misrule (this year known as the Duke of Rosevean) is elected and they oversee the festivities and is treated with mock reverence by all. Some guise plays also involved ‘obby ‘osses, notably mentioned in texts from around the time the Cornish Culture Association picks up from are mast-beasts, which are the type constructed from animal skulls on poles. These beasts are seen at Montol, in various forms in many guilds and accompanied by a teaser, to make sure they don’t run off, or cause too much mayhem. Other guilds sing Christmas carols and wassails, play music, perform satirical comedy skits and games and hand out treats, all regrouping after the parades and spending the night with their roaming activities to process from one part of town to another accompanied by music and cheers! Other traditions involved on Montol is that of the “Chalking the Mock”. The Mock is a Cornish Yule Log, a stick figure is drawn on the wood and burnt to represent the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. The honour of drawing this figure in a group of hundreds of revellers is left to the decision of the Montol ‘Osses, Kasek Nos and Pen Hood, who pick one person to do this. Montol is a festival which welcomes people from all faiths and none, or all abilities and at the heart of everything we do as the Cornish Culture Association, is our community statement. “We believe that Cornish Culture is the best way to bring the Cornish Community together regardless of ethnic origin, political beliefs, gender or any other factor. This makes our community stronger and more capable of dealing with the challenges of the 21st Century” we are united in our common interest, Cornish celebrations of midwinter. If you would like to find out more about our work reviving and keeping Cornish festivals, Cornish culture and history or join as a member, please visit

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